SC gay marriage plaintiffs can now seek legal fees

Colleen Condon, left, and her partner Nichols Bleckley appear at a news conference in Charleston, S.C., shortly after filing a federal lawsuit seeking the right to marry in South Carolina.

Colleen Condon, left, and her partner Nichols Bleckley appear at a news conference in Charleston, S.C., shortly after filing a federal lawsuit seeking the right to marry in South Carolina. BRUCE SMITH [ap]

Colleen Condon, left, and her partner Nichols Bleckley appear at a news conference in Charleston, S.C., shortly after filing a federal lawsuit seeking the right to marry in South Carolina.

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled same-sex marriage is the law of the land, the way is clear for couples who challenged South Carolina’s gay marriage ban in the federal courts to seek tens of thousands of dollars in court costs.

Same-sex couples earlier sued in Charleston and Columbia for the right to be married or for the state to recognize their marriages performed out of state.

While a 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision cleared the way for gay marriages in South Carolina and other states in the circuit last year, state Attorney General Alan Wilson appealed — arguing a decision by another circuit upholding gay marriage bans would have to be resolved by the Supreme Court.

The 4th Circuit combined the South Carolina cases and put requests for attorney fees on hold until there was a decision by the Supreme Court. That decision came last month.

Last week, the 4th Circuit granted Wilson’s motion to voluntarily end the appeal. Federal judges in both Columbia and Charleston have now set court schedules for resolving the issue of attorney fees.

In the Charleston case, attorneys for Colleen Condon and her partner Nichols Bleckley, who sued last year to get a marriage license, have asked to be reimbursed $153,000 in legal fees. The figure represents 446 hours of work by seven attorneys.

In the second South Carolina case, which has been in the courts for almost two years, Highway Patrol Trooper Katherine Bradacs and U.S. Air Force retiree Tracie Goodwin sued to have the state to recognize their same-sex marriage that was earlier performed in Washington, D.C.

Their attorneys have not yet filed for fees, but court documents show that a federal judge has now given them until Tuesday to do so.

Judges can order losing parties to pay opponents’ fees, especially in civil rights cases.

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