COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - South Carolina’s attorney general said the state’s ban on gay marriage is still in place and he will continue to fight a lawsuit trying to overturn it despite a ruling by a federal appeals court with jurisdiction over South Carolina.
The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday that Virginia’s ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional. South Carolina is in the circuit, along with North Carolina and West Virginia.
But a spokesman for South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson said he sees no need to change course because the U.S. Supreme Court will likely make the final decision.
“Ultimately, this will be a decision for the U.S. Supreme Court. People should not rush to act or react until that time, when a decision is made by the highest court in the land,” Spokesman Mark Powell said.
Wilson is defending the state against a lawsuit filed by a gay couple who were legally married in Washington, D.C., and are now living in South Carolina. Highway Patrol Trooper Katherine Bradacs and U.S. Air Force retiree Tracie Goodwin said in their lawsuit that they are treated like legal strangers in their home state.
Arguments in that case have been on hold while the appeals court considered the Virginia case.
Gay rights groups realize Monday’s ruling means that gay marriages will not start immediately in South Carolina. But it does give them hope that they are a step closer to being able to wed in the state, said Ryan Wilson, executive director of South Carolina Equality.
“This ruling confirms that gay and lesbian couples are no different from straight couples,” Ryan Wilson said. “We share similar values, worries, hopes, and dreams and deserve the freedom to marry the person we love. Today, love wins in Virginia, and this ruling has a chance of having an impact on South Carolina’s own case.”
South Carolina passed a law banning same-sex marriage in 1996, and voters approved a similar constitutional amendment in 2006 with 78 percent of the vote.