“For us it’s huge,” says Carrie Warner, a lawyer for a gay couple in Lexington County who are challenging South Carolina’s same-sex marriage ban in federal court. “It’s the first state in the South within our circuit that has made this ruling, effectively overturning a constitutional ban. And so this is a direct hit in terms of guidance for, potentially, our judge whose hearing this case."Last fall, S.C. Highway Patrol trooper Katherine Bradacs and her spouse Tracy Goodwin filed their lawsuit. They were legally married in Washington, D.C., and they argue South Carolina’s ban on same-sex marriage infringes on their constitutional rights. The federal government recognizes their marriage in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), but the Palmetto State, which has a same-sex marriage ban and a constitutional amendment declaring marriage as being between a man and a woman, does not. Warner says the facts in her clients’ case are similar to those of the one in Virginia. U.S. District Judge Michelle Childs, an appointee of President Barack Obama, could hear the South Carolina case as early as next month. The judge who ruled in Virginia, Arenda Wright Allen, was also appointed by Obama around the same time.
When it comes to South Carolina, two things could happen, according to those following the case.Malissa Burnette, an attorney for the Post-DOMA Litigation Task Force in South Carolina, a legal team that helps LGBT couples navigate the laws here, says Judge Childs could wait on her ruling to see how the Fourth Circuit rules on the Virginia appeal and look to that for guidance.