Metro Weekly

South Carolina same-sex marriages set to begin Nov. 20

South Carolina State Capitol - Credit: Joe Shlabotnik/flickr
South Carolina State Capitol – Credit: Joe Shlabotnik/flickr

Same-sex marriages are set to begin in South Carolina on Thursday barring intervention by the U.S. Supreme Court.

In a Tuesday decision, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals denied a request by the state to put same-sex marriages in the state on hold. 

On Nov. 12, 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.” 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. 

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.

The situation mirrors one in Kansas, where the state appealed to the Supreme Court to stay same-sex marriages in that state. On Nov. 12 — the same day a federal judge struck down South Carolina’s same-sex marriage ban — the Supreme Court rejected that stay, allowing same-sex marriages to proceed in the state.

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