The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision Monday not to hear the five cases before them that challenged state bans on the marriage of same-sex couples means that the circuit court rulings overturning those bans remain unchanged in the Fourth, Seventh, and Tenth Circuits.
In some cases, this will also mean that marriage for same-sex couples might soon be possible in states that also lie within those circuits. That includes South Carolina, which is under the jurisdiction of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Legal experts say federal courts in South Carolina are bound by the Fourth Circuit’s ruling, which struck down the ban on same-sex marriage in Virginia. Their ruling is expected to dictate the outcome of the pending South Carolina case, Bradacs v. Haley. In that case, a Lexington County lesbian couple who were married in the District of Columbia sued the state, arguing its law banning gay marriages violate the “equal protection” clause of the U.S. Constitution.
State Attorney General Alan Wilson said his office would continue to uphold the state constitution until a court rules otherwise.
But the organization SC Equality, which lobbies for LGBT issues in South Carolina, is urging the attorney general and Gov. Nikki Haley to drop their fight against same-sex marriages.
“Any loopholes that the attorney general and Governor Nikki Haley try to jump through to delay this inevitable action is just going to waste taxpayer’s money,” Board Chairman Jeff Ayers told South Carolina Radio Network. “Marriage equality is coming to South Carolina, and it is already here.’’
“The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has made it clear that banning marriages for same-sex couples is unconstitutional,” he continued.
South Carolina Equality said it demands that marriage equality be recognized in South Carolina, and encourage those South Carolinians in same-sex relationships who want to get married to apply for marriage licenses. Ayers said he believes South Carolinians can expect an opinion from the District Court of South Carolina at any time that could strike down the Palmetto State’s ban.