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State of South Carolina
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Current Status

  • Civil marriage equality in effect at the state level since November 2014. (Same-sex couples may legally marry.)

HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE

  • In November 2006, South Carolina voters adopted a constitutional amendment that defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman and prohibited the recognition of same-sex relationships under any other name. Similar restrictions appear in state statutes.
  • In January 2009, the Civil Union Equality Act, a bill to establish civil unions explicitly for same-sex couples, was introduced in the SC Senate by State Senator Robert Ford of Charleston. The bill never moved out of committee.
  • If a same-sex couple engage in a physical fight, state law forbids it from being recognized as domestic violence, merely classifying it as an assault.
  • South Carolina has no state hate crimes law.
  • No provision of state law explicitly addresses discrimination on the base of sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • Richland County and the following cities prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in employment: Charleston, Columbia, Myrtle Beach, and North Charleston.
  • Constitutional ban on same-sex marriage from 2006 to 2014, per South Carolina Amendment 1.
  • 6 October 2014, SCOTUS refused to grant cert in VA's Bostic. South Carolina is also covered by the 4th Circuit and binding precedent now exists for SC, meaning the 28 July 2014 ruling by the 4th Circuit in Bostic also applies to South Carolina.

Legislation - Pending

None.

Legislation - Enacted

Domestic Relations > Marriage > SECTION 20-1-15. Prohibition of same sex marriage per Act No. 327 Section 1 in 1996

Author/Sponsor:
Date Introduced: 1996
Date Enacted: 20 May 1996

Description: The South Carolina Code of Laws > Domestic Relations > Marriage > General Provisions Section 20-1-15 states: A marriage between persons of the same sex is void ab initio and against the public policy of this State. 

Lawsuits - Pending

Haas v. South Carolina DMV

Case #: 
Court Level: Federal District Court
Date Filed: 31 October 2014
Date of Appeal:

Description:

Bleckley v. Wilson (formerly Condon v. Haley)

Case #: 14-2241 (4th Circuit); 2:14-cv-04010-RMG (Federal District Court)
Court Level: Federal District Court
Date Filed: 15 October 2014
Date of Appeal: 13 November 2014

Description:

  • Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit against Nimrata (Nikki) Randhawa Haley, in her official capacity as Governor of South Carolina, Alan Wilson, in his official capacity as Attorney General, and Irvin G. Condon in his official capacity as Probate Judge of Charleston County for not allowing same-sex couples, including Plaintiffs Colleen Therese Condon and  Anne Nichols Bleckley, to exercise their fundamental right to marry in accordance with the July 28th ruling by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Bostic. (South Carolina is also covered by the 4th Circuit, thus, when SCOTUS denied cert to Bostic on 6 October 2014, that left the 4th Circuit's July 28th ruling as valid and set a binding precedent for all other states covered by the 4th Circuit.)
  • 22 October 2014, the Plaintiffs filed a Motion for Preliminary Injunction.
  • 22 October 2014, the plaintiffs filed a Motion for Summary Judgment.
  • 23 October 2014, a text order setting the briefing schedule on the Motion for Preliminary Injunction was issued.
  • 23 October 2014, the court originally set a telephone status conference for the morning of 24 October 2014. Following media inquiries, the judge decided that the conference -- which attorneys can still appear at by phone -- will be held in the courtroom.
  • 23 October 2014, the plaintiffs requested an expedited schedule and ruling.
  • 23 October 2014, the defendants filed a Motion to amend due date for their response to the motion for summary judgment.
  • 24 October 2014, a telephone conference was held before Judge Gergel and a transcript of the call was recorded.
    From transcript: "MR. SMITH (attorney for Gov. Haley): Yes, Your Honor, this is Emory Smith with the Attorney General's office again. We note that Your Honor set the deadline for responding to the preliminary injunction motion for November 3rd, and we respectfully request a three-day extension on that to November 6th.
    "THE COURT: Well, let me tell you my view, Mr. Smith. You know, you practice in front of me enough to know that I'm generally very accommodating to lawyers. But the plaintiffs in this case have asserted an irreparable injury. They assert their marriage was stopped by the action of the defendants, and I'm having a hearing because of that alleged irreparable injury of what Bostic has found to be a fundamental right, and I believe they're entitled to an expeditious review. So respectfully, that motion is denied."
  • 3 November 2014, Defendant Probate Judge Irvin G. Condon filed his answer to the complaint. 
  • 3 November 2014, Judge Condon also filed his Response to the request for Injunctive Relief
  • 3 November 2014, the Governor and Attorney General filed their Memo Opposing Preliminary Injunction
  • 5 November 2014, the plaintiffs filed their Reply to Gov. Haley's and AG Wilson's opposition to a preliminary injunction.
  • 7 November 2014, the state defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss.
  • 10 November 2014, the state defendants filed their Opposition to Summary Judgment in favor of plaintiffs. 
  • 12 November 2014, the plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment was GRANTED! The injunction was temporarily Stayed until 12:00 noon on Thursday, 20 November 2014.
  • 13 November 2014, the Attorney General filed a Notice of Appeal to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.
  • 13 November 2014, AG Wilson asked the 4th Circuit for a stay pending appeal.
  • 13 November 2014, the Court called for a response to the motion by 17 November 2014 at 10:00am ET. The Court also set an initial briefing schedule.
  • 16 November 2014, the plaintiffs filed their Opposition to a Stay Pending Appeal.
  • 18 November 2014, Attorney General Alan Wilson asked the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay of the ruling that will allow marriage to start 20 November 2014 at 12:00 noon. The application goes to Chief Justice Roberts, as the justice for the 4th Circuit.
  • 19 November 2014, the South Carolina Supreme Court issued an order lifting the injunction that kept the state's probate judges from issuing marriage licenses. There were news reports of some marriages today, while some counties are waiting until the federal injunction expires tomorrow at noon. There is still no word from the U.S. Supreme Court on the application for a stay the AG submitted to Justice Roberts yesterday.
  • 20 November 2014, SCOTUS DENIED the state's request for a stay! Marry on, South Carolina!
  • 1 December 2014, Attorney General asked the 4th Circuit to put the appeal on hold and indicated he intends to ask the Supreme Court to take up this case.
  • 2 December 2014, the Court ordered a response to the motion, due 9 December 2014.
  • 3 December 2014, Appellee's Response in agreement with the Motion to Stay proceedings was filed. Edited to add link to Corrected Response.
  • 10 December 2014, the plaintiffs filed a Petition for Attorneys' Fees and Costs, request totaling just under $153K.
  • 11 December 2014, Winning marriage equality lawyers file request for South Carolina Attorney General Wilson to pay $152,709 in legal fees - By John Monk, The State
  • 15 December 2014, the 4th Circuit has consolidated this case and Bradacs v. Haley (last case listed below) and granted the state's motion to put the appeals on hold. This case is the lead, follow here for updates to both cases.
  • 9 February 2015, the plaintiffs filed their Reply in support of attorney fees.

Swicegood v. Thompson

Case #: 2014-001 109
Court Level: State Trial Court
Date Filed: 13 March 2014
Date of Appeal:

Description:

  • 13 March 2014, a divorce case involving same-sex couple who allege they were in a common law marriage was filed in a state trial court. The plaintiff’s attorney said he expects the case to be dismissed, and he then will file federal case challenging state’s marriage ban.
  • Cathy Swicegood and Polly Thompson were together for 13 years, sharing homes, bank accounts and other property, according to the lawsuit. Swicegood was also covered under Thompson’s health insurance plan, according to Swicegood’s attorney. Swicegood’s lawsuit names Thompson as the defendant. Because of their shared life, according to the lawsuit, the pair should be considered to be married under the common law. Swicegood and Thompson split in 2013, and Swicegood said that she should now be entitled to certain considerations – like an order keeping Thompson from liquidating joint assets – now that their union is over. The lawsuit also asks that a South Carolina judge officially recognize Swicegood’s union with Thompson and their separation and also order that their joint property be equitably divided.
Bradacs v. Haley

Case #: 3:13-CV-02351-JFA
Court Level: Federal District Court (4th)
Date Filed: 28 August 2013
Date of Appeal:

Description:

  • 28 August 2013, a same-sex couple married in Washington D. C. in April 2012 filed a federal lawsuit challenging both the state statute and the constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. The plaintiffs are a state highway patrol officer and a disabled veteran of the U.S. Air Force who are raising 3 children together.
  • 21 February 2014, an amended complaint was filed.
  • The case was initially assigned to U.S. District Judge Joseph Fletcher Anderson, Jr., but on 18 October 2013 the case was reassigned to District Judge J. Michelle Childs.
  • 22 April 2014, the case was stayed until the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals rules on the same-sex marriage case of Bostic v. Rainey.
  • 28 July 2014, following the Bostic ruling, Attorney General Alan Wilson and Governor Nikki Haley said that marriage equality is still illegal in SC and the state will continue to defend the unconstitutional ban. 
  • 6 October 2014, following the SCOTUS orders (pgs. 39 & 40) issued earlier this day regarding the marriage equality cases that had petitioned the high court for review, the SC AG vowed to go down fighting. 7 October 2014, this case is reactivated; the court issued an order lifting the April stay and setting briefing deadlines.
  • 8 October 2014, from Kathleen Perrin of Equality Case files: South Carolina is in the 4th Circuit where the ruling in Bostic is binding precedent , so we should expect -- hopefully soon -- a favorable resolution. Until the district court issues a final ruling the state is under no "legal" obligation to stop enforcing its marriage ban. In the meantime, some counties ARE issuing marriage licenses. Here is a letter from the Charleston probate judge with the rationale for that county's action. And, the disagreement from another probate judge.
  • 9 October 2014, Probate Court Judge Irving Condon issued a statement saying he will wait for the South Carolina Supreme Court to rule before he issues any same-sex marriage licenses. He said the justices asked him to wait until they can consider the case before any licenses are issued. The SC Supreme Court followed with their order
  • 9 October 2014, reminder: there is not yet a federal injunction in South Carolina requiring the state to issue licenses. The 4th Circuit decision in Bostic is binding precedent in SC federal court, but that just means that the judge in this case has to reach a decision consistent with Bostic.
  • 14  October 2014, the Court approved a briefing order going forward. Dispositive motion due 23 October 2014, with briefing set to complete approximately three weeks later.
  • 20 October 2014, the plaintiffs filed a motion for Summary Judgement
  • 23 October 2014, the defendants filed a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings
  • 28 October 2014, the state filed their Opposition to the plaintiffs' motion for Summary Judgment.
  • 1 November 2014, I'm Married, I'm Married Not - By William Lucas Walker, Spilled Milk 
  • 3 November 2014, the plaintiffs filed their Response to Defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings. 
  • 3 November 2014, Don Boyd -- "Musician and Psalmist, Anointed and Assigned as a Watchman for the souls of that people errantly identifying and calling themselves lesbian and gay" -- seeks to intervene in the case as a defendant-intervenor. Yes, folks, this is for real. Courtesy of Kathleen Perrin with EQCF: Mr. Boyd "WOULD PURSUE DISMISSAL of what is in essence and in truth a RELIGIOUS matter couched of late as a secular deprivation of constitutional rights by the Gay Agenda (of said people errantly identifying and calling themselves lesbian and gay) apostate and rebellious from The Most High GOD and Creator LORD of all the Earth, covetous of the Portion of those marrying and given in marriage in this world, troubled and incited of that Wicked One Lucifer the Devil unto discontent with Divine Constraint their Portion and glorious Calling in this life unto Reward of the Next."  
  • 4 November 2014, the defendants filed their Reply in support of judgment on the pleadings in their favor.
  • 5 November 2014, an Amicus Brief of Lawyers' Committee for Children's Rights in was filed in support of the plaintiffs.
  • 10 November 2014, Judge Childs dismissed Governor Haley from the lawsuit, but otherwise denied the state's motion for a judgment in its favor. The case will proceed with the Attorney General as a defendant.
  • 10 November 2014, with the case going forward, the state filed a motion for a stay 'just in case' the judge rules in favor of plaintiffs.
  • 10 November 2014, the plaintiffs filed their Reply in support of summary judgment in their favor.
  • 18 November 2014, Don Boyd's Motion to Intervene was denied. Poor Don. Don is the self-identified "MUSICIAN AND PSALMIST, Anointed and Assigned as a Watchman for the souls of that people errantly identifying and calling themselves lesbian and gay," guy.
  • 5 December 2014, the State filed notice of appeal to 4th Circuit.
  • 15 December 2014, here is the current briefing order.
  • 15 December 2014, the 4th Circuit has consolidated this case and Bleckley v. Wilson (third case listed above) and granted the state's motion to put the appeals on hold. Follow Beckley v. Wilson above for updates. 

Lawsuits - Resolved

McEldowney v. South Carolina DMV

Case #: 3:14-4155-JMC
Court Level: Federal District Court
Date Filed: 24 October 2014
Date Resolved: 24 February 2015

Description:

Ballot Initiatives - Pending

None.

Ballot Initiatives - Passed

South Carolina Amendment 1

Purpose of Ballot Measure:

  • The Constitutional Amendment outlawed the state from performing or recognizing any legal relationship other than that between one man and one woman.
  • The Amendment is unique in that it also specifically did not extend its effect to contracts between private parties.
  • It passed with 78% support in 2006.

Date Passed: 7 November 2006

Polls

  • 21 February - 1 March 2015, the Winthrop Poll surveyed 1,109 residents by telephone and more than half of respondents (52.7%) said that they're opposed to gay couples marrying, while 42.8% said that such unions should be valid. News Source Poll Details
  • An October 2013, a Winthrop Poll found that 52% of South Carolina adults said marriage should not be legally recognized, while 39% said that it should. Poll details.
  • A December 2012 survey by Public Policy Polling found that 27% of South Carolina voters believed same-sex marriages should be legal, 62% thought it should be illegal, and 10% were not sure. In addition, 54% supported some type of legal recognition (25% for marriage, 29% for civil unions but not marriage) and 43% favored no legal recognition at all. Poll details.