New task force to help marriage equality effort in SC - - Columbia, South Carolina |

New task force to help marriage equality effort in SC

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A group that represents South Carolina's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community wants the state to legally acknowledge relationships of South Carolina residents that are recognized in other states.  

The push comes after the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act in June.

South Carolina Equality Executive Director Ryan Wilson says he is now in the same situation as many other same-sex couples in the Palmetto State.  Wilson is like many same-sex couples who have been married in another state and returned  to South Carolina where same-sex couples are in limbo. 

The federal government says same-sex couples are married, but the state of South Carolina says same-sex couples are roommates.

"So it creates a kind of confusion and no one really knows where to turn. And so South Carolina Equality said, 'That's our job.'  We want to step up and try and provide some answers for couples in South Carolina," Wilson said.

On Wednesday SC Equality launched the Post-DOMA Litigation Task Force. Organizers say the all-volunteer effort will focus on legal solutions for same-sex couples being denied full equality in the State of South Carolina.

South Carolina board member Malissa Burnette explained, "We hope eventually we will identify the major obstacles that same-sex couples are facing under the unequal laws here is South Carolina so that we may launch some sort of legal attack, actually, on the laws that are discriminatory and provide some relief for same-sex couples in South Carolina."

Same-sex marriages are currently legal in 13 states and Washington, D.C. Several other states allow civil unions or full domestic partnerships for gay and lesbian couples.

While the U.S. Supreme Court held that the federal government cannot refuse to respect the marriages of married same-sex couples, the State of South Carolina refuses to recognize the civil unions because of a state constitutional amendment.

"Since the amendment in South Carolina was passed in 2006 that banned same-sex marriages we have come a long way," Burnette said. "That is seven years, almost eight years ago.  I think people are beginning to accept that they have relatives, friends, co-workers and neighbors who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender and people, I think, are going to accept that.  It is a different South Carolina. I think we're ready."

"At South Carolina Equality we sort of refuse to believe that we're going to be one of the last states in the country to allow marriage equality," Wilson said.

South Carolina Equality wants to hear stories of discrimination and experiences of same-sex couples. To find out more about the new marriage equality effort or to submit a story,  click here.

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