Judge dumps gay marriage ban in South Carolina

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Nice job, Georgia. As this state fights gay marriage, it's neighbor to the east – always thought of as the less progressive kissing cousin – got the gay marriage on Wednesday.

The decision to strike down the state's ban on same-sex unions came in a federal lawsuit from Colleen Condon and Nichols Bleckley, which Lambda Legal and South Carolina Equality filed in October. They sued after they were allowed to apply for a marriage license by a probate judge, an action later stopped by the South Carolina Supreme Court.

From the Washington Blade:

In a 26-page decision issued on Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Richard Mark Gergel, an Obama appointee, determines the South Carolina’s ban on gay nuptials violates same-sex couples’ rights to equal protection and due process under the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Gergel bases his decision on an earlier ruling from the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals against the marriage ban in Virginia, which lies in the same judicial circuit as South Carolina.

“While a party is certainly free to argue against precedent, even very recent precedent, the Fourth Circuit has exhaustively addressed the issues raised by Defendants and firmly and unambiguously recognized a fundamental right of same sex couples to marry and the power of the federal courts to address and vindicate that right,” Gergel writes.

Gergel put his decision on hold until noon on Nov. 20.

The gay number crunchers at the Williams Institute say there are 7,214 same-sex couples in the state. An October report from the researchers said that extending gay marriage to South Carolina would pump $25 million in spending in the state's economy. The same report shows that marriage equality would bring $78 million to Georgia.

The case is one of five lawsuits in South Carolina challenging the state's gay marriage ban. On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge J. Michelle Childs signaled that she would only consider whether the state should recognize gay marriages performer in other states. That came as Childs also dismissed Gov. Nikki Haley as a defendant. The case, brought by Katherine Bradacs and Tracie Goodwin, was filed in August 2013. 

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