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Same-Sex Couple Filed a Federal Lawsuit to Attack South Carolina’s Defense of Marriage Act and Ban on Gay Marriage

The State reports that a same-sex couple filed a federal lawsuit challenging the 1996 law and the constitutional amendment that ban same-sex marriages in South Carolina.  The couple was married in Washington, D.C. in 2012, but currently resides in Lexington County.

According to the State, the “lawsuit says the U.S. Constitution guarantees Bradacs and Goodwin the right to have the same rights as married heterosexual couples and that South Carolina’s exclusion of same-sex couples ‘adversely impacts the plaintiffs and same-sex couples across South Carolina by excluding them from the many legal protections available to spouses.’”

South Carolina’s Defense of Marriage Act states: “A marriage between persons of the same sex is void ab initio and against the public policy of this State.” S.C. Code Ann. § 20-1-15 (1996).  The Constitutional Amendment states:

A marriage between one man and one woman is the only lawful domestic union that shall be valid or recognized in this State. This State and its political subdivisions shall not create a legal status, right, or claim respecting any other domestic union, however denominated. This State and its political subdivisions shall not recognize or give effect to a legal status, right, or claim created by another jurisdiction respecting any other domestic union, however denominated. Nothing in this section shall impair any right or benefit extended by the State or its political subdivisions other than a right or benefit arising from a domestic union that is not valid or recognized in this State. This section shall not prohibit or limit parties, other than the State or its political subdivisions, from entering into contracts or other legal instruments.

S.C. Const. Art. XVII, section 15.

Earlier this year, in United States v. Windsor, the Supreme Court of the United States (“SCOTUS”) struck down the United States’ version of the Defense of Marriage Act.  That decision, however, was not solely on Equal Protection Clause grounds, as the SCOTUS used federalism principles to strike down the law.  The Windsor decision was covered on this blog in a post entitled: “The Impact (If Any) of Windsor and Perry on South Carolina’s Definition of Marriage.”

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