WASHINGTON – Today U.S. District Judge Richard Mark Gergel ruled against South Carolina’s constitutional amendment banning marriage equality, making the Palmetto State the latest to see such a ban struck down in court since the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its historic marriage rulings last June. In Condon v. Haley, Lambda Legal and private attorneys sued the state on behalf of same-sex couples who argue that South Carolina’s ban on marriage equality violates the U.S. Constitution. In his ruling, Judge Gergel cited the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling in Bostic v. Shaeffer, in which the federal appeals court struck down Virginia’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples. The Fourth Circuit ruling in Bostic is binding precedent on South Carolina.
“According to today’s federal court ruling and two dozen others over the last year, there is no justifiable reason to keep these discriminatory marriage bans on the books, said Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. “The truth is, laws prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying serve no purpose other than to harm Americans who simply want to protect and provide for themselves and their families. Ultimately the U.S. Constitution does not allow states to continue discriminating against committed and loving gay and lesbian couples.”
Last week the Sixth Circuit overturned lower court rulings that struck down Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee bans on marriage equality. Up to that point, no state marriage ban had survived a federal circuit court ruling. What’s more, the Supreme Court of the United States issued an order last month allowing the pro-marriage equality rulings from the Fourth, Seventh and Tenth Circuits to stand, immediately making marriage for same-sex couples possible in five new states – with many more following soon after. The decision by the Sixth Circuit creates a circuit court split, which increases the likelihood of the Supreme Court taking up the issue in the near future.
Gallup puts support for marriage equality at 55 percent – an astonishing 15 points increase from just 5 years ago – with other polls showing support at even higher margins. And support for same-sex marriage rights continues to grow in virtually every demographic group. According to ABC News / Washington Post, 77 percent of adults under age 30 favor marriage equality. 40 percent of Republicans – an all-time high and jump of 16 points in under two years – now support marriage for gay and lesbian couples, while the number of Catholics supporting marriage has grown to 62 percent, according to the New York Times. These numbers continue to grow, with no indication that support will slow down.
The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. HRC envisions a world where LGBT people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.
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