US: Marriage equality groups celebrate first Deep South victory in South Carolina

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

Pro-gay groups are celebrating a judge’s order striking down the ban on same-sex marriage in South Carolina.

Earlier today US District Judge Richard Mark Gergel ruled that the state’s Amendment 1, which bans the recognition of all unions aside from marriage between a man and a woman, was unconstitutional.

It is the first ruling in favour of equality in a Deep South state – with Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi all still banning marriage equality.

South Carolina Equality lawyer Nekki Shutt said: “Judge Gergel’s order is music to our ears. 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.”

Senior Attorney Beth Littrell of Lambda Legal, the law firm that brought the case, said: “Today’s decision moves South Carolina closer to equality as it becomes the next state to allow same-sex couples the freedom to marry!

“It is a shame it took another lawsuit to ensure that state officials respected the federal constitution, but the time is almost here for same-sex couples who want to marry to call the caterer.

“Last month, the Fourth Circuit made its views on marriage bans within its jurisdiction crystal clear, and with today’s order our clients Colleen and Nichols can move forward with their wedding plans.

“For them and many other South Carolinian same-sex couples, the wait is almost over.”

The decision is stayed until November 20, meaning that marriages can start then unless a further stay is granted.

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson says he will “immediately appeal” the ruling – which is little more than an expensive stalling tactic, as the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has already ruled in favour of equal marriage.