This Just In

Civil Rights Groups Call on Attorney General to Drop Defense of S.C.’s Marriage Law

Governor’s Opponents at Odds Over State’s Next Steps
By Eva Moore
Wednesday, July 30, 2014 |

Two civil rights organizations are calling on South Carolina’s attorney general to drop his defense of the state’s amendment banning same-sex marriage.

The ACLU South Carolina and South Carolina Equality launched a petition drive asking Alan Wilson to drop the defense in light of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeal’s decision Monday that Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. South Carolina is in the 4th Circuit, and a lawsuit against the state’s own marriage amendment is pending in district court.

“Our state will be on the wrong side of history if it continues to use public funds to defend the ban on freedom to marry for all South Carolinians,” said ACLU of South Carolina Executive Director Victoria Middleton in a statement.

In nearby North Carolina, the Democratic attorney general has already announced he will stop defending that state’s anti-same-sex marriage amendment.

Before today’s petition announcement, Wilson released a cautious statement saying, “Currently, South Carolina’s law remains intact, and, of course, our office will continue to defend it.”

Gov. Nikki Haley echoed Wilson.

“This administration will continue to uphold the will of the people,” Gov. Nikki Haley said in a statement, according to The State. “Ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court will decide this issue, and until that time, South Carolina will continue to be governed by the laws of our state.”

Haley was referring to the fact that the 4th Circuit’s latest ruling will likely be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

One of Haley’s opponents took the opportunity to stake out some independent ground on the issue. Tom Ervin, who is running for governor as an “independent Republican,” called on South Carolina leaders to drop their legal defense of the law in the Bradacs v. Haley case.

“My personal faith affirms that marriage is between a man and a woman but under our Constitution, people in this country are afforded equal protection under our laws,” Ervin said in a statement. “This means that anyone should be free to marry the person they love. Government should not be in the bedroom, but it should also not be in the church. Individual churches should be allowed to decide which marriage ceremonies they want to perform. Further action on this matter, such as an appeal by the state, is a waste of taxpayer dollars.”

But the campaign of State Sen. Vincent Sheheen, who is challenging Haley as a Democrat, has not yet responded to a request for comment. The State reported Tuesday that Sheheen had been “noncommittal” in his response to the paper’s query, with his campaign manager saying the candidate “will monitor the court’s proceedings as the process continues to move forward.”

In the past, Sheheen has said he opposes same-sex marriage, though he’s also tried to maintain ties to the state’s gay community.

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