A federal judge struck down South Carolina’s ban on same-sex marriage in a ruling handed down Wednesday.
U.S. District Court Judge Richard Mark Gergel found South Carolina laws prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying “unconstitutionally infringe on the rights of Plaintiffs under the Due Process Clause and Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution and are invalid as a matter of law.”
South Carolina is one of the states in a circuit impacted by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last month declining to hear arguments in cases challenging same-sex marriage bans in five states — Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia, Indiana and Wisconsin — thus allowing lower court decisions legalizing marriage equality in those states to stand. Because the Supreme Court left intact rulings by the 4th Circuit, 7th Circuit and 10th Circuit Courts of Appeals striking down same-sex marriage bans in those five states, those appeals courts’ decisions applied to six other states in those three circuits: West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kansas, Colorado and Wyoming. Although some of those states have been quick to comply, South Carolina has sought to defend the state’s same-sex marriage ban.
According to Gergel, the decision by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals striking down Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban “controls the disposition of the issues before this Court and establishes, without question, the right of Plaintiffs to marry as same sex partners.”
Although Gergel denied a stay pending appeal due to the unlikelihood that the South Carolina ban will be upheld, he did grant a temporary stay until noon on Nov. 20 to allow South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson to petition either the 4th Circuit or the U.S. Supreme Court for a longer stay.
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