Federal judge rules denying the freedom to marry in South Carolina is unconstitutional

UPDATED NOVEMBER 20: On 11/20, the United States Supreme Court denied the state's request to further stay the South Carolina marriage ruling, meaning that at 12:00pm in South Carolina, same-sex couples will officially have the freedom to marry, even as the state's appeal proceeds. Previously, on 11/18, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit denied the state's request for an extension of the stay. 

Today, U.S. District Court Judge Gergel ruled in favor of the freedom to marry in South Carolina, striking down the state's ban on marriage between same-sex couples. This ruling came after the United States Supreme Court denied review in five cases involving the freedom to marry, including a case in Virginia. Because Virginia is in the 4th Circuit, the ruling is binding for the entire circuit, including South Carolina. Since this ruling, West Virginia and North Carolina have secured the freedom to marry.

The ruling is stayed until November 20 at noon. 

Read the full decision here, courtesy of Equality Case Files.

Freedom to Marry founder and president Evan Wolfson said today:

Today’s ruling in South Carolina makes clear that all Americans share the fundamental freedom to marry, and that no state obstruction or discrimination is exempt from the Constitution's command of equal protection of the laws. The decision adds to the powerful momentum of 50 other victories from a bipartisan cascade of federal and state courts over the past year. But we are one country, with one Constitution, and continuing discrimination in other parts of the country prolongs harms and indignity to families. The U.S. Supreme Court should act now to affirm the freedom to marry for all Americans.

This historic ruling was in the case Condon v. Haley, which was filed in by Lambda Legal and South Carolina Equality in October on behalf of a same-sex couple who wants to marry in South Carolina.

The couple, Charleston County Councilwoman Colleen Condon and her fiancee Nichols Bleckley, became the first same-sex couple in South Carolina to apply for a marriage license after Charleston County Probate Judge Irvin Condon announced that, barring intervention from the South Carolina Supreme Court or other court, Charleston County would begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. 

This decision is the 52nd ruling in favor of marriage for same-sex couples. In only four decisions, judges have ruled to uphold marriage discrimination. See all of the marriage rulings here.

Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit broke from a unanimous streak of federal appellate rulings in favor of marriage by upholding discrimination in Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan and Tennessee. Plaintiffs from all four states will seek review from the U.S. Supreme Court, with petitions expected later this week. Learn all about marriage at the Supreme Court here.