Trooper, partner challenging SC's gay marriage ban

Published: Sep. 2, 2013 at 8:07 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 25, 2013 at 2:14 AM EDT
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Katherine Bradacs and Tracie Goodwin (Source: Bluestein, Nichols, Thompson & Delgado)
Katherine Bradacs and Tracie Goodwin (Source: Bluestein, Nichols, Thompson & Delgado)

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - A Highway Patrol trooper and her partner will be the first South Carolinians to challenge the state's constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and civil unions in the wake of the US Supreme Court's landmark decision striking down parts of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

Trooper Katherine Bradacs and Tracie Goodwin and their attorney, John Nichols, filed a lawsuit in US District Court on Aug. 28.

The suit challenges the Palmetto State's Defense of Marriage Law and a 2007 amendment to the state constitution. They both ban same sex marriage and recognition of those marriages performed outside the state.

"By defining marriage in this way, South Carolina discriminates on the basis of sex," said the suit. "The Supreme Court has made clear that perpetuation of traditional gender roles is not a legitimate government interest."

The suit goes even further, saying the state's laws on same-sex marriage fail "any level of constitutional scrutiny."

"Neither traditional nor moral disapproval of same-sex relationships or marriage for gay and lesbian couples is a legitimate basis for unequal treatment of same-sex couples under the law," said the suit.

Bradacs and Goodwin married in Washington DC in 2012, and their marriage is legally recognized by the federal government as a result of the early summer US Supreme Court case US vs. Windsor, which found restricting the definitions of "marriage" and "spouse" to heterosexual unions was unconstitutional.

Goodwin and Bradacs want their marriage recognized in order to be eligible for federal benefits since Bradacs is classified as a disabled United States Air Force Veteran.

"If her marriage to Plaintiff Bradacs was recognized in the State of South Carolina, not only could Plaintiff Bradacs be entitled to make a claim as a surviving beneficiary of Plaintiff Goodwin's VA benefits, but Plaintiff Goodwin would be entitled to receive more in disability from the VA if her marriage to Plaintiff Bradacs were recognized in the State of South Carolina," said the suit.

Supporters of same-sex marriage who celebrated June's 5-4 U-S Supreme Court ruling expected gay couples here and around the nation to begin attacking state laws. They said the high court's decision made it impossible to reconcile state bans with the equal protection guaranteed by the 14th Amendment.

South Carolina is a fairly conservative state, but it's progressive in a lot of ways," said attorney Nichols. "And it's our belief and our faith that the court will take a look at the changing views around the country and the changing views in our state."

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