A judge in South Carolina has struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.
US District Judge Richard Mark Gergel ruled today that the state’s Amendment 1, which bans the recognition of all unions aside from marriage between a man and a woman, was unconstitutional.
Judge Gergel stayed the decision until next Thursday, November 20, when couples will be able to begin to marry unless the state takes action to halt the ruling in the meantime.
However, the Fourth Circuit – which is the appeals court that covers South Carolina – has already ruled in favour of marriage equality on a number of occasions, making any further defence of the law from the state a costly stalling action at best.
In his ruling, Judge Gergel wrote that the state’s anti-gay marriage laws “unconstitutionally infringe on the rights of Plaintiffs under the Due Process Clause and Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution and are invalid as a matter of law.”
He adds: “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.”
Evan Wolfson of Freedom to Marry said: “We are one country, with one Constitution, and continuing discrimination prolongs harms to families.”
Same-sex weddings became legal in North Carolina last month, as part of a flood of pro-marriage rulings.