Legal fight against marriage equality could cost taxpayers

Legal fight against marriage equality could cost taxpayers

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - As the legal battle to block same-sex marriage continues, an attorney for the group fighting for same-sex marriage said it could get pretty expensive for state taxpayers.

So far, the attorneys for SC Equality have been pretty successful in court and the law said they're entitled to "a reasonable attorney's fee as part of the costs."

That money would come from the state.

The attorneys haven't been awarded any fee yet, but if they are, that money could go to SC Equality.

"Collectively, we have spent hundreds of hours on this case," said attorney Malissa Burnette.

Burnette, a Columbia civil rights attorney, has been putting all her effort into one job over the past few months, paving the way for same-sex marriage in South Carolina.

She's one of several attorneys representing SC Equality, the group trying to make that happen.

"Everything has gone our way, as we expected it would," Burnette said.

Burnette and SC Equality won a battle last week, when a U.S. District Court judge based out of Charleston struck down the state's ban on same-sex marriage.

They won again this week, when the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson and denied his request for an emergency stay.

Now, the fight turns to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"The Attorney General is filing so many motions and appeals," Burnette said. "We're all having to spend so much time in attention with that."

Because of that, Burnette hopes to have her attorney fees paid by the state, as the law allows.

"It's expensive," Burnette said. "It's time away from our own practices."

Last week's ruling said any motion by plaintiffs for an award of attorney fees will be considered.

Burnette said she intends to file for them.

"With every step that we win, and we have to spend more time and effort, that adds up," Burnette said. "The court will look at each step that we win, and that becomes more expensive to the state."

Copyright 2014 WIS. All rights reserved.