Same-Sex Couples Marry in South Carolina, Montana after Bans Lifted
South Carolina and Montana have become the 34th and 35th US states to achieve same-sex marriage equality after separate judicial decisions cleared the way for weddings to begin.
The US Supreme Court on Thursday denied South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson’s request for a stay of US District Judge Richard Gergel’s November 12 ruling which struck down the state’s same-sex marriage ban as an unconstitutional violation of the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection under the law. Such unions had been banned under state law and a voter-approved state constitutional amendment.
Chief Justice John Roberts issued the denial, with justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia dissenting. The high court’s refusal to delay gay marriage in the conservative southern state opened the door for same-sex couples there to begin marrying.
In Charleston, the county probate office began issuing marriage licenses on Wednesday. Kristin Anderson and Kayla Bennett were the first to say “I do,” the Charleston Post and Courier reports.
“It’s the beginning of a new chapter,” the couple told reporters, adding that “everything will be the exact same, expect we can get benefits, so that’s awesome.”
Beth Parks, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Motor Vehicles, said one of those ‘benefits’ is the right for same-sex spouses to change their names on official documents.
“We are now accepting marriage certificates from any state, including the District of Columbia,” Parks told the State. “We have been working with the Attorney General’s office and we are following the law.”
Despite the seemingly inexorable march toward same-sex marriage equality sweeping the nation, Attorney General Wilson held out hope that the clock could be turned back on LGBT civil rights.
“Despite today’s refusal to grant our motion, the US Supreme Court has not yet resolved conflicting rulings by federal appeals courts on the issue of same-sex marriage,” Wilson said in a statement, referring to the recent decision by the Sixth Circuit Court upholding gay marriage bans in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee.
Meanwhile, same-sex couples in Montana rushed to tie the knot on Thursday, a day after US District Judge Brian Morris ruled the state’s voter-approved constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman was an unconstitutional violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.
“This Court recognizes that not everyone will celebrate this outcome,” Morris wrote in his ruling. “This decision overturns a Montana Constitutional amendment approved by the voters of Montana. Yet the United States Constitution exists to protect disfavored minorities from the will of the majority.”
The Billings Gazette reports gay couples lined up at county courthouses across Big Sky country, elated at the prospect of being able to marry who they love after so much bigotry and discrimination. Gay sex was technically a felony in Montana until it was decriminalized last year, despite the efforts of Republican lawmakers who defended continued criminalization.
“We couldn’t sleep last night, we were so excited,” Denise Boettcher, who married her partner Kellie Gibson in Billings, told the Gazette. “It’s a good day in the state of Montana.”
Bert Pezzarossi and Dan Hance drove 145 miles (233 km) from Miles City to Billings with their six adopted children so the whole family could participate in their marriage.
“It’s definitely the best that I think could ever happen,” Hance and Pezzarossi’s 12-year-old adopted son Anthony Manfredo told the Gazette. “My parents are married, finally.”
But Rep. Steve Daines, a Republican elected to the US Senate earlier this month, expressed his disappointment with Morris’ ruling, saying an “unelected federal judge” had ignored the will of Montana’s voters.