CHARLESTON, S.C. — Although no hearings have yet been set, the legal maneuvering continues in federal cases brought by gay couples seeking to be married in South Carolina or have the state recognize their marriages performed out-of-state.
Last month the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of a Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision allowing same-sex marriage in Virginia. South Carolina is the only state in the circuit refusing to allow the marriages.
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A look at the latest developments in the South Carolina cases:
COLUMBIA FEDERAL COURT
Highway Patrol Trooper Katherine Bradacs and U.S. Air Force retiree Tracie Goodwin want South Carolina to recognize their marriage. Attorney General Alan Wilson said in a filing last month that the couple is suing the wrong people in the wrong court. He argued marriage is an issue for the state courts and that he and Gov. Nikki Haley, the named defendants, lack enforcement power over the state’s same-sex marriage ban.
But in a response Tuesday, attorneys for the couple renewed their request that the judge rule in their favor without a trial. They argued federal suits are allowed against state officers who enforce unconstitutional laws and since the governor and attorney general are required to enforce the state constitution, they are the proper defendants.
CHARLESTON FEDERAL COURT
Colleen Condon and Nichols Bleckley applied for a same-sex marriage license in Charleston County last month. They want U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel to issue a preliminary injunction preventing the state from enforcing its ban, effectively opening the way for same-sex marriages.
In a response filed on Monday, Wilson opposes the request and argues that “because this case seeks to decide the core question of two people’s marital status, it belongs in state court rather than federal court.”
Alternatively, he argues the Charleston court should put a hold on the case until a decision in the Columbia case which is farther along in the legal process. “The same substantive issues are present in both cases,” he wrote, noting the ruling would apply to both couples.
He also asks that, if the court does issue a preliminary injunction, the injunction be put on hold until the state can appeal to the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The American Civil Liberties Union and South Carolina Equity sued the state Department of Motor Vehicles in federal court in Greenville last week on behalf of three people who had same-sex marriages in other states and changed their surnames. The suit alleges DMV refused to allow them to use the names on their licenses. DMV has until Nov. 21 to respond.
A similar case was brought by a Lexington County woman in federal court in Columbia and the state has until Dec. 9 to respond.
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