Fourth Circuit Rejects Attempt to Delay Marriage in South Carolina

Fourth Circuit Rejects Attempt to Delay Marriage in South Carolina

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Photo: Greenville Online
Photo: Greenville Online

Tuesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit denied the State of South Carolina’s motion to stay last week’s U.S. District Court ruling striking down the state’s discriminatory marriage ban, setting the stage for marriages to begin for same-sex couples at noon on Thursday, November 20.  South Carolina’s Attorney General filed a motion for an emergency stay to delay marriages following a ruling by the U. S. District Court for the District of South Carolina striking down the state’s discriminatory marriage ban in accordance with the Fourth Circuit’s earlier decision striking down a similar ban in Virginia.

“The end game is clear – marriage will soon be available for same-sex couples in South Carolina. This is a great victory for same-sex couples and their families because it removes one more hurdle to finally walking down the aisle,” said Beth Littrell, Senior Attorney in Lambda Legal’s Southern Regional Office based in Atlanta.

“We urge the Attorney General  to stop trying to delay the inevitable – their actions are damaging to families they were elected to protect,” said South Carolina Equality lawyer Malissa Burnette, partner at Callison Tighe & Robinson.

“We are ecstatic as we get ready to go pick up our license at Noon on Thursday,” said Lambda Legal client Colleen Condon.

Lambda Legal and South Carolina Equality represent Colleen Condon and Nichols Bleckley who applied, and paid, for a marriage license in Charleston County soon after the U.S. Supreme Court last month declined to review rulings out of three federal appellate circuits – including the 4th Circuit – invalidating discriminatory marriage bans in five states.

However, before they received their marriage license, South Carolina’s Attorney General asked the South Carolina State Supreme Court to step in and halt the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The South Carolina Supreme Court effectively stopped state court judges from issuing marriage licenses or weighing in on marriage equality pending an order from federal court.

Last week U.S. District Court Richard Gergel struck down the discriminatory marriage ban, but delayed enforcement of his order for one week – until noon on November 20 – to give the State a chance to appeal. Tuesday’s ruling affirmed Judge Gergel’s order, allowing marriages to begin.

Read the decision here.

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