US district court judge strikes down SC's same-sex marriage ban, - - Columbia, South Carolina

US district court judge strikes down SC's same-sex marriage ban, SC AG to appeal

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - A US District Court judge based out of Charleston has struck down the state's ban on same-sex marriage in a ruling issued Wednesday morning.

Judge Richard Gergel struck down the ban, but he issued a stay on the ruling until Nov. 20 at noon. That means ban will not be officially ended until that date.

"The Court hereby declares that [the S.C. constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage], to the extent they seek to prohibit the marriage of same sex couples who otherwise meet all other legal requirements for marriage in South Carolina, unconstitutionally infringe on the rights of plaintiffs under the Due Process Clause and Equal Protection Clause of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution and are invalid as a matter of law," the ruling states.

The ruling effectively overturns the ban that was overwhelmingly accepted by South Carolina voters in 2006 when it was put forth on the ballot. 

The ruling is based on an injunction filed by Charleston County Councilwoman Colleen Condon and her partner, Nichols Bleckley, who attempted to apply for a marriage license in Charleston County following the US Supreme Court's decision to not hear an appeal by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which governs South Carolina. 

Attorney General Alan Wilson's office is reviewing the order, which he plans to appeal. The one-week stay granted by Gergel allows them time to appeal.

“Today's ruling comes as no surprise and does not change the constitutional obligation of this Office to defend South Carolina law, including, but not necessarily limited to, appeal to the Fourth Circuit. Therefore, we will immediately appeal to the Fourth Circuit." Wilson's office released a statement to the media Wednesday afternoon.

Meanwhile, supporters of same-sex marriage declared victory at the ruling. The South Carolina Equality Coalition sent out a news release saying they were "relieved and excited." 

“Judge Gergel's order is music to our ears," the release said. "Same-sex couples in South Carolina should have been able to marry starting October 6 when the U.S. Supreme Court refused review of the Fourth Circuit's decision striking down the ban in Virginia. It's a shame that the Governor and Attorney General delayed the inevitable and harmed some of the residents they were elected to protect. There is no reason to continue to delay – we call on state officials to drop any further legal maneuvers and let couples get married.”

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