A South Carolina gay-rights group has launched a petition drive asking State Attorney General Alan Wilson to stop defending the state’s ban on same-sex marriages.
The drive comes a few days after a federal appeals court ruled a similar Virginia law unconstitutional. That decision has potential implications for South Carolina because it was made by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, whose jurisdiction includes the Palmetto State.
SC Equality executive director Ryan Wilson (no relation) said his organization is working with the ACLU’s South Carolina chapter to gather enough signatures that he hopes will send a message. “We felt that gathering a group of individuals together who all share this common goal would show strength in numbers and help unify the movement in South Carolina towards equality,” he told South Carolina Radio Network.
He noted North Carolina Attorney Gen. Roy Cooper had said his office would not defend the Tar Heel State’s constitutional ban. Cooper is a Democrat, while Alan Wilson is Republican.
South Carolina residents overwhelmingly voted in 2006 to include an amendment to the state constitution that only recognizes unions between one man and one woman. Like Virginia’s constitution, South Carolina’s amendment also does not allow the state or its municipalities to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.
The Attorney General’s Office said Monday it will continue to defend South Carolina’s ban as long as it remains in place. “Ultimately, this will be a decision for the U.S. Supreme Court,” agency spokesman J. Mark Powell said in an email. “People should not rush to act or react until that time, when a decision is made by the highest court in the land.”
State prosecutors have been arguing against a lawsuit filed by a Lexington couple — Katie Bradacs and Tracie Goodwin — who claim South Carolina’s ban is unconstitutional. The case had been on hold pending the appeals court’s decision in the Virginia case. Following Monday’s ruling, the couple’s attorney Carrie Warner indicated she will ask for summary judgment.
Wilson’s Democratic opponent in November, Garden City attorney Parnell Diggs, told The State newspaper that he does not think South Carolina should spend taxpayer money to defend a ban that likely will be overturned by the Supreme Court.