In SC, joy, dismay greet rulings on same-sex marriage

cclick@thestate.comJune 26, 2013 

  • S.C. reacts to decisions

    “I believe in the traditional definition of marriage. South Carolinians have repeatedly said that is the definition they support as well. I have been a strong supporter of the Defense of Marriage Act. ... I was disappointed with today’s outcome but respect the court’s decision. One key point, today’s Supreme Court ruling will not change South Carolina law, and I will continue to fight for and defend the traditional definition of marriage.”

    U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

    “Advocates of same-sex marriage wanted a long pass to the end zone for a touchdown today. They got a first down in a legal cloud of dust. Nothing in the court’s tap dancing today changes the South Carolina marriage definition Palmetto Family worked so hard to pass by 78 percent. In fact, by overturning a federal law (Defense Of Marriage Act) and affirming the laws in the few states allowing same sex marriage, the court has affirmed the S.C. constitutional definition as well. The court did not find a federal constitutional right of individuals of the same gender to marry, and that is a relief for supporters of both traditional marriage and federalism.”

    Oran Smith, president, Palmetto Family Alliance

    “Today’s rulings do not impact South Carolina’s definition of marriage. They do confirm the federal government cannot interfere with a state’s right to define marriage.”

    S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson

    “I welcome today’s decision of the United States Supreme Court that strikes down the 17-year-old law prohibiting federal recognition of same-sex civil marriages granted by the states. The unmistakable movement toward civil marriage equality in the states over the past decade reflects the will of the people in those states to grant equal rights and dignity under the law to all married couples and families, and today’s decision will appropriately allow those families to be recognized under federal law as well. At the same time, the court’s withholding of judgment on the ultimate constitutional question of whether a state may ban same-sex marriage reflects the fact that this conversation will continue to evolve in coming years. I trust that Episcopalians will contribute actively and faithfully to this conversation, particularly as our nation begins to discern the many practical implications of today’s decisions for areas of our shared life, ranging from immigration law to family rights.”

    Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, Episcopal Church

    “Marriage is a life-long commitment between a man and woman. It is the only union in which the husband and wife form a total communion of persons and serve as the foundation of the family. Marriage provides any child who comes from their union with the secure support of a mother and father; the difference between a mom and a dad matters. Moreover, marriage and the family are a vital part of society. Husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, perform an essential role by teaching family members and society the immense dignity of each human person and what it means to love and be loved. Marriage is a personal relationship with great public significance — not a private affair — that affects all in society. In spite of today’s Supreme Court decision, the church community will continue to stand together in promoting and defending marriage – the union between one man and one woman for life. I ask for prayers regarding this issue as we work to strengthen, support and safeguard marriage.”

    Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone, Diocese of Charleston

    “Today we are celebrating those who now have the freedom to marry, BUT tomorrow our community will continue the work to achieve the freedom to marry for ALL lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.”

  • More information

    S.C. Equality board chairman Jeff Ayers

— The U.S. Supreme Court’s long-awaited decisions on same-sex marriage Wednesday buoyed South Carolina activists who want to overturn the state’s ban on gay marriage and civil unions, while opponents vowed to press on in their defense of traditional marriage.

The high court struck down the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act as a violation of the constitutional right to equal protection under the law. The ruling gives same-sex couples who have married in states that recognize gay unions the same federal tax, health and pension benefits that are now given to all other married Americans.

The court dismissed the case on California’s 2008 Proposition 8 referendum banning gay marriage, an initiative the state’s governor and attorney general had refused to defend. That means California likely will again recognize same-sex marriage.

“This is an enormous victory and a joyous day for loving, married couples and their families, and for equal justice under the law,” said Ryan Wilson, executive director of S.C. Equality. “Today, the Supreme Court affirmed that all loving and committed couples who marry deserve equal legal respect and treatment.”

Wilson and other activists see the ground shifting in their favor both in the state and across the nation, as more Americans appear willing to extend rights to the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community as a matter of social justice. Same-sex marriage is legal in 12 states, not including California, and the District of Columbia.

But some religious leaders lamented the decision as undermining the traditional view of marriage and family.

Roman Catholic Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone, leader of the Diocese of Charleston, said he was disappointed by the decision “because for us, as Catholics and beyond Catholics, for many, many people, marriage is looked to as the basic support for family life. We look at it as the marriage of one man, one woman for life.”

Clearly, the overturning of the 17-year-old law provides impetus for legal assaults in states such as South Carolina, which passed a 2006 constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and civil unions.

While the ruling has no immediate effect on South Carolina, “what this case does is signal a willingness on the part of the court to validate same-sex marriage,” said University of South Carolina law professor Derek Black.

The court did not establish a constitutional right to marriage for those of the same gender, but Black noted, “there are cases in the pipeline that will probably make it to the Supreme Court that will effectively decide the constitutionality of South Carolina’s amendment.”

“This is a warning flag — do you want to be on the wrong side of history,” Black said of states that are weighing the same-sex issue. “The court has effectively given them another two to four years to get on the right side of history. I don’t think it will have a change on the politics here.”

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote the majority 5-4 opinion in the DOMA case, joined by four liberal-leaning justices: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Stephen G. Breyer. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. was in the minority, as were justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. Alito argued that the decision should be left to the states.

“The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity,” Kennedy wrote.

“By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment.”

The day’s rulings are clear for people who were married and live in states that allow same-sex marriage. They now are eligible for federal benefits.

The picture is more complicated for same-sex couples who traveled to another state to get married legally, or who have moved from a gay-marriage state since being wed.

Their eligibility depends on the benefits they are seeking. For instance, immigration law focuses on where people were married, not where they live. But eligibility for Social Security survivor benefits basically depend on where a couple is living when a spouse dies.

Guglielmone, the Catholic bishop, said he understood and acknowledged the rights of gays to seek equal civil benefits. But he said he must look to the spiritual moorings of his faith, which claim marriage as a sacred bond between a man and woman and the foundation for creation of the family.

“In no way do I wish to deny the right of those in homosexual relations to government benefits,” he said. “To say that marriage and homosexual unions are on the same moral plane, that is difficult.”

Palmetto Family Alliance president Oran Smith took some consolation in the court’s reticence to establish a constitutional right to gay unions.

“There was not a 50-state solution proposed or handed down,” Smith said. “It just has (Chief Justice) John Roberts’ fingerprints all over it. Like in the Medicaid case, there is something for everyone.”

Smith acknowledged that attitudes toward gay marriage have changed in the seven years since the S.C. amendment was passed by a 78-22 margin. But he said he believes it would still pass today.

“I think there might be some slippage but I think there is no question if we took another vote today, it will still pass,” Smith said. “I think it would be a win for traditional, natural marriage.”

The Associated Press contributed.


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