A South Carolina gay-rights group plans to start a petition drive Wednesday asking Attorney General Alan Wilson to stop defending the state’s ban on same-sex marriages in the wake of a federal appeals court ruling.
“All the arguments they could make (were) ruled unconstitutional,” said Ryan Wilson, executive director for S.C. Equality. “The state has more pressing issues than defending a law that will be struck down by the Supreme Court.”
S.C. Equality will start a petition drive asking South Carolina’s attorney general to follow the lead of North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, a Democrat who said Monday his state would no longer oppose lawsuits trying to overturn that state’s gay-marriage ban.
Both Carolinas are in the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled Monday that Virginia’s gay-marriage ban was unconstitutional. The ruling is expected to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
S.C. Attorney General Wilson and Gov. Nikki Haley, both Republicans, pledged Monday to uphold South Carolina’s ban, approved by voters in 2006. Haley’s office said Monday her administration “will continue to uphold the will of the people.”
However, a pair of statewide candidates called Tuesday for Wilson to stop fighting a lawsuit brought by a Lexington County couple who want South Carolina to recognize their wedding in Washington, D.C., where gay marriage is allowed.
Garden City attorney Parnell Diggs, Wilson’s Democratic opponent in November, said South Carolina should not spend taxpayer money to defend a ban that likely will be overturned by the Supreme Court. “We’re headed in that direction.”
Meanwhile, petition gubernatorial candidate Tom Ervin of Greenville, a former state lawmaker and judge, said while he believes marriage is between a man and a woman, the U.S. Constitution affords all people equal protection.
“Government does not belong in the bedroom,” Ervin said. “Anyone should be free to marry the person they love. ... Further action on this matter, such as an appeal by the state, is a waste of taxpayer dollars.”
Wilson’s office said it has used staff attorneys, not more expensive outside counsel, to work on the lawsuit filed nearly a year ago by the Lexington couple, Katherine Bradacs and Tracie Goodwin.
The campaign for Democratic gubernatorial challenger, Vincent Sheheen, did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday. Sheheen’s campaign said Monday only that the Camden state senator was monitoring court proceedings.
While South Carolina’s same-sex marriage ban remains in effect, gay-rights advocates and legal experts say it is just a matter of time before the U.S. Supreme Court rules state bans are unconstitutional. Six gay couples plan to seek marriage licenses at the Greenville County Probate Court on Wednesday in symbolic protest of the ban.
Ryan Wilson said just because a majority of South Carolinians voted to ban gay marriage does not make that prohibition right. In the mid-1950s, many South Carolinians would have voted to oppose integrating classrooms in the wake of the Supreme Court decision declaring segregated schools to be unconstitutional, he said.
“The biggest and loudest among us does not get to make laws for the minority on a basic human right,” he said.