A federal judge on Wednesday struck
down South Carolina's ban on gay marriage as unconstitutional.
U.S. District Court Judge Richard
Gergel of Charleston rejected arguments made by Attorney General Alan
Wilson and Governor Nikki Haley, who are fighting to keep the ban in
place, saying that the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in a recent
case “exhaustively addressed the issues raised by Defendants and
firmly and unambiguously recognized a fundamental right of same sex
couples to marry and the power of the federal courts to address and
vindicate that right.”
Gergel said that Bostic, in
which the appeals court struck down Virginia's ban, had set a
precedent in the Fourth Circuit on the issue.
“The Court finds that Bostic
controls the disposition of the issues before this Court and
establishes, without question, the right of Plaintiffs to marry as
same sex partners,” Gergel said in his 26-page
ruling. “The arguments of Defendant Wilson simply attempt to
relitigate matters already addressed and resolved in Bostic.
Any effort by Defendant Wilson or others to overrule Bostic
should be addressed to the Fourth Circuit and/or the United States
Gergel's decision is set to take effect
on Thursday, November 20 at noon, giving the state more than a week
to appeal the ruling.
Plaintiffs in the case are Colleen
Condon, a county councilwoman, and Anne Nichols Bleckley of
Charleston County. The women's application for a marriage license
was accepted by a county probate judge after Virginia's ban fell.
Wilson responded by asking the South Carolina Supreme Court to direct
judges to refrain from issuing such licenses until a federal case
challenging the ban is resolved. The court granted the request.
Condon and Bleckley asked Gergel to allow the probate judge to issue
them a marriage license.
South Carolina is the lone state in the
Fourth Circuit currently enforcing its marriage ban after the Supreme
Court on October 6 refused to hear an appeal in the case challenging
Virginia's ban, effectively striking down such bans in the Fourth
(Ruling provided by Equality