Same-sex marriage suit: Haley will defend SC Marriage Law

jmonk@thestate.comSeptember 3, 2013 

— Gov. Nikki Haley will mount a defense in federal court against a challenge by two Lexington County women to the state’s 1996 Defense of Marriage Law and a section of the state constitution that bans gay marriages in South Carolina.

“Gov. Haley, like the majority of South Carolinians, supports traditional marriage as defined between one man and one woman, and in accordance with state law, will continue to uphold those values. The legislature has spoken on this issue, the people have spoken on this issue, and the governor remains resolute in her support of South Carolina’s Constitution and state’s rights and this lawsuit doesn't change that,” said Haley spokesman Doug Mayer in an email Tuesday.

A spokesman for state Attorney General Alan Wilson – the other defendant named in a just-filed potentially historic lawsuit challenging state bans on gay and lesbian marriage – said Tuesday that Wilson has no immediate comment.

“We just got the lawsuit, and we are reviewing it,” said spokesman J. Mark Powell.

In Pennsylvania, that state’s attorney general, facing a similar lawsuit, announced she could not defend Pennsylvania’s Defense of Marriage law, which she called “unconstitutional.”

Meanwhile, Columbia attorney Carrie Warner, who with attorney John Nichols represents the lawsuit’s plaintiffs Tracie Goodwin and Katherine Bradacs, responded to media requests and made available photographs of the two women and their children.

One photo shows the two women, their three children and their dog. Another shows the family standing in front of a barn. The children are the biological children of one of the women, but Warner said they didn’t want to say any more about the children at this time.

Their 18-page lawsuit, filed Aug. 28 in federal court in Columbia, is squarely aimed at overturning South Carolina’s Defense of Marriage law, which lawmakers passed in 1996, and a 2006 amendment to the state constitution, approved by voters, that bans same-sex marriages and prohibits same-sex marriages legal in other states from being recognized in South Carolina.

Bradacs, 31, and Goodwin, 35, were married on April 6, 2012, in the District of Columbia, their lawsuit says.

The lawsuit also refers to the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision, known as U.S. vs. Windsor, which in June overturned a federal law banning the recognition of same-sex marriages.

Bradacs is a trooper in the S.C. Highway Patrol, and the lawsuit specifically refers to the hardships faced by Goodwin and other similarly situated spouses whose marriages are legal in other states but not in South Carolina.

“Lesbian and gay police officers, firefighters and other first responders are denied the peace of mind of knowing that if they make the ultimate sacrifice, their partner will be taken care of through the financial support available to help those who lost their spouses in service to the community,” the lawsuit says.

One S.C. law also provides for the S.C. Highway Patrol to “transfer the service sidearms of an active duty state trooper killed in the line of duty to that trooper’s surviving spouse upon request at no charge once the sidearm is rendered permanently inoperable,” the lawsuit says.

“This assistance is not provided to same-sex surviving spouses or partners of first responders,” the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit is likely to become widely discussed across South Carolina.

The 2006 amendment to the state constitution that banned same-sex marriage passed by an 80 to 20 percent margin, but Warner said there has been a major shift nationally – and, she believed – in South Carolina in public opinion that has made same-sex marriages more acceptable.

“What gets lost in this is that these couples are having children, and they are having families, and that there are laws out there that do not protect the children in case one of the spouses dies,” Warner said. “The state has a duty and obligation to protect these children.”

In his dissent in June’s U.S. Supreme Court Windsor decision, losing Associate Justice Antonin Scalia wrote about how volatile a topic gay marriage is.

“Few public controversies touch an institution so central to the lives of so many, and few inspire such attendant passion by good people on all sides,” Scalia wrote.

Reach Monk at (803) 771-8344.

The State is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service