The Freedom to Marry in South Carolina

Winning Marriage: November 20, 2014

Same-sex couples began marrying in South Carolina on November 20, 2014 after U.S. District Court Judge Richard Mark Gergel ruled in favor of the freedom to marry. The ruling followed the United States Supreme Court’s October 6, 2014 decision to deny review of a pro-marriage order from the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.

History and the Path to Victory:

  • 1996: The South Carolina Legislature passes a state statute restricting marriage to different-sex couples. Governor David Beasley signs the bill into law.  
  • November 7, 2006: Opponents of the freedom to marry in South Carolina push through Amendment 1, a constitutional amendment denying same-sex couples the freedom to marry and any other legal family status. The amendment cements clearly discriminatory language into the South Carolina Constitution.
  • December 11, 2012: Polling in South Carolina tracks marked growth in support for the freedom to marry, reflecting the power of the national discussion of why marriage matters.
  • 2006-2013: As Americans nationwide engage in conversations about why marriage matters, national and local advocates in South Carolina take strides toward increasing understanding of same-sex couples and their families.
  • August 28, 2013: Same-sex couples and private counsel file a federal legal case seeking the freedom to marry in South Carolina, Bradacs v. Haley. In the same year, several other cases are filed, building momentum for marriage in the courts.
  • October 6, 2014: The United States Supreme Court denies review of a federal legal case in which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit ruled that denying same-sex couples the freedom to marry in Virginia is unconstitutional. The ruling creates a binding precedent throughout the circuit, including in South Carolina. Read the ruling.
  • November 18, 2014: U.S. District Court Judge Richard Mark Gergel rules in favor of the freedom to marry in Condon v. Haley, striking down South Carolina’s ban on same-sex marriage. Read the complaint here – and the ruling. Some marriage licenses are issued to same-sex couples starting the next week after the 4th Circuit rules in favor of the freedom to marry in Bostic v. Schaefer.  
  • June 26, 2015: The United States Supreme Court rules in favor of the freedom to marry, ending marriage discrimination across the country.

Groups That Actively Worked on Marriage

  • SC Equality is a statewide coalition of fair-minded individuals, religious groups, and social justice organizations working to secure civil and human rights for all citizens of South Carolina, particularly lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
  • Lambda Legal is the United States' first legal organization dedicated to achieving full equality for gay and lesbian people. Lambda Legal was counsel in the Condon v. Haley case. 
  • The American Civil Liberties Union is a non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to protecting the liberties guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, the state Constitution, and state and federal laws.
  • Alliance for Full Acceptance is a social justice organization achieving equality and acceptance for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
  • Freedom to Marry was the campaign to win marriage for same-sex couples nationwide.