Supreme Court’s Decisions on Same-Sex Marriage Laws Lead to SC Court Battle

Supreme Court - The Peck Law FirmRecently, the U.S. Supreme Court issued two important decisions regarding same-sex marriage.

The headline-making rulings concerned Proposition 8, California’s ban on same-sex marriage, and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the law that denied federal benefits to married same-sex couples. The Supreme Court declared Proposition 8 unconstitutional and struck down DOMA.

The landmark decisions hold great significance for the same-sex marriage debate; however, the Supreme Court did not issue a sweeping resolution to either side of the issue. The decision on Proposition 8 affects only California. The ruling on DOMA affects only whether federal benefits will be given and does not impact state law on the constitutionality of same-sex marriage.

Because of this, supporters and critics across the U.S. are gearing up for legal battles at the state level, reported the Wall Street Journal.

“Very few states remain undecided on gay marriage,” stated the article. Thirteen states and the District of Columbia permit gay marriage. Thirty states have constitutional bans on same-sex marriage, including South Carolina.

In 1996, the South Carolina legislature passed the S.C. Defense of Marriage Act, which made same sex marriage void. Thereafter, in 2006, the voters of South Carolina approved by an overwhelming margin an amendment to the state Constitution to ban same-sex marriages.

This month, a S.C. Highway Patrol trooper and her same-sex partner filed a lawsuit with the U.S. District Court to challenge the constitutionality of the 1996 S.C. law and the 2006 S.C. constitutional amendment.  The trooper and her partner were married in the District of Columbia in April of 2012. They now seek recognition of their marriage in South Carolina.

You can read here a copy of the complaint that the S.C. trooper and her partner filed in Columbia. U.S. District Court Judge Joe Anderson is expected to decide the case in 2014. Regardless of the trial outcome, it is likely that the losing side will appeal his decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals and, possibly, the U.S. Supreme Court.

Gay marriage advocates are also preparing to challenge bans on gay marriage in several states, namely Nevada and Oregon. Sevcik v. Sandoval, out of Nevada, has made the most progress through the courts and could be the case that puts the issue before the Supreme Court once again. In Oregon, gay-rights advocates have presented preliminary paperwork to challenge the state’s ban on the November 2014 ballot.

In response, opponents of gay marriage are preparing both to defend existing same-sex marriage bans and to push for a federal marriage amendment.

This is a highly controversial issue that will surely affect our nation for years to come. Please check back as I continue to write about the latest news regarding family laws in South Carolina and the U.S.