SC woman files lawsuit over same-sex separation - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

SC woman files lawsuit over same-sex separation

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(Source: MGN Online) (Source: MGN Online)

GREENVILLE, SC (WYFF) —A lawsuit filed in Greenville this week could challenge the state's ban on same-sex marriage.

Cathy Swicegood, of Mauldin, is seeking a divorce from her female partner of 13 years. But because Swicegood was never legally married, she has no legal protections under South Carolina law.

"It's just unbelievable that in a country as wonderful as ours, you can be treated this way," Swicegood said.

But Swicegood's attorney, John Reckenbeil, believes his client does qualify for protections under South Carolina's common law statute.

According to their lawsuit, Swicegood and her partner "exchanged and wore wedding rings," "owned property together" and were "in eachother's wills," which Reckenbeil believes makes them as good as married.

"Common law marriage in South Carolina is two individuals that cohabitate, live together. They hold themselves out to the public in general as spouse and spouse," Reckenbeil said.

Reckenbeil said not only was Swicegood thrown out of the home she resided in for 13 years, she was kicked off the "supporting domestic partners" company's group health insurance with no legal remedy.

He said that would not have been the case for a divorcing heterosexual couple, whose health coverage would be maintained by law.

"We are seeking the courts to issue an order that says both South Carolina laws that ban same-sex marriage are unconstitutional, not only under the South Carolina constitution, but more importantly under the United States constitution," he said.

Reckenbeil expects the family court to throw out his client's "divorce" request, because of the state's ban on same sex marriage. If that happens, he said he plans to file a lawsuit in federal court, challenging the state's ban.

WYFF News 4 reached out to state attorney general Alan Wilson, who would represent South Carolina in the case but a spokesperson said "it would not be appropriate to comment at this time, because the case is still pending."

Swicegood hopes her legal challenge will help other same-sex couples.

"That would be the most wonderful thing in the world for future generations to not have to suffer and go through the things I've had to deal with and all gay people have had to deal with," she said.

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