South Carolina

S.C. says marriage rulings make gay couple’s name change lawsuit moot

In Charleston, attorneys for Colleen Condon and her partner Nichols Bleckley who sued to get a marriage license, earlier asked for $153,000 in legal fees. MEG KINNARD [ap]

COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina officials say a federal judge no longer needs to consider a same-sex couple’s challenge of the state Department of Motor Vehicles’ policy on driver’s license name changes because of court decisions allowing gay marriages in the state and subsequent policy changes by the state’s agencies.

South-CarolinaIn papers filed in federal court Tuesday, lawyers representing the state say the lawsuit is now moot, and same-sex married couples can change their names if they meet requirements pertaining to any couple.

However, the filing comes as Republican South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson continues to fight to uphold the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex unions, saying federal appeals courts have issued conflicting rulings and the U.S. Supreme Court has not fully resolved the issue.

On Nov. 20, government agencies in South Carolina began recognizing gay marriages, giving health care coverage to spouses and children of same-sex couples. They also let residents change their last name on their driver’s license if they show a marriage license.

“Since November 20, 2014, Defendant Department of Motor Vehicles has allowed name changes on drivers’ licenses based upon same-sex marriages provided that the applicants otherwise meet the requirements of State law,” state attorneys wrote in their Tuesday filing.

With the filing, state attorneys included copies of updated DMV policies, which removed a citation saying same-sex marriages were not recognized as a basis for name change and replaced the terms “husband and wife” with “spouse.”

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Tuesday’s filing was the state’s official response to an October lawsuit filed by Julie McEldowney, who said she legally changed her name with the Social Security Administration after marrying her wife in the District of Columbia earlier this year.

Armed with her marriage license and federally issued paperwork reflecting her name change, McEldowney went to the South Carolina DMV to get a license with her married name but was rejected.

McEldowney’s lawsuit was one of several challenges filed to South Carolina’s same-sex marriage ban.

A federal judge in Charleston struck down the ban, saying the state is bound by an appellate court’s decision on a similar law in Virginia. The U.S. Supreme Court declined Wilson’s request for an emergency stay.

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