On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge, Richard Gergel, overturned South Carolina’s ban on same-sex marriage, ruling that the ban was in contradiction of precedential rulings of the higher courts. Gergel has decided, however, that the ruling will not take effect until Nov. 20, giving South Carolina Attorney General, Alan Wilson, a chance to seek an appeal with the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.
According to ABC, Wilson will be making an immediate appeal to the courts in Richmond, Va., to uphold South Carolina’s ban, despite an earlier decision of the appeals court to overturn a gay marriage ban in Virginia. The ruling in Virginia applies to all states within the 4th circuit’s district, including South Carolina. Wilson said he would work to uphold South Carolina’s voter-backed amendment to the state’s constitution, which passed with a 78-22 majority in 2006, and outlaws same-sex marriages.
Gergel ruled that the South Carolina ban was in contradiction of the rulings of the higher courts and that it was not for the state government to impose same-sex marriage restrictions, but for the appeals court or the U.S. Supreme Court to decide to uphold or overturn the ban. Gergel’s decision comes in response to a suit filed by a lesbian couple in Charleston, S.C., who were denied a marriage license. As the first to apply for the same-sex marriage license, Colleen Condon and Nichols Bleckley wanted to be married in Charleston. A local judge was set to issue a license, but was blocked by the state Supreme Court.
As Condon and Bleckley were in the process of obtaining their marriage license, a couple in Columbia was fighting to have their marriage—which was performed in Washington, D.C.—recognized by South Carolina courts. The Supreme Court ruled that Condon and Bleckley would have to wait until a decision was made in the Columbia case before a license would be issued. The couple sued in October following that decision. With Gergel’s ruling that they were unlawfully stopped from obtaining a marriage license, their case may proceed, according to WYFF4.
Gay marriage proponents saw landslide wins over the past year and, most recently, when federal district courts overturned bans in Missouri, Kansas and West Virginia last week. Same-sex marriage is now legal in 32 states, reports Reuters. Amidst the victories for gay marriage advocates, however, was a decision to uphold a ban in Cincinnati by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.
The Cincinnati ruling applies to the four states in the court’s district—Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee—and may press the U.S. Supreme Court to make a definitive ruling on the controversial issue. The higher courts have delayed making a decision on whether same-sex marriage is a constitutional and inalienable right, and in some cases have allowed bans to be struck down by refusing to hear appeals.
When asked about the South Carolina ruling, Condon said she is relieved the ban was overturned and is excited to resume her wedding plans, which were halted when she and her fiancé were denied a marriage license as a same-sex couple. Condon, an attorney, said she is glad that her family will be recognized by her state, as she has been representing the state’s families in court every day.
Photo by: Kentucky Photo File – Flickr License