As bans over same sex marriages are overturned across the nation, it is likely to be only a matter of time before the legal battle heats up in South Carolina.
Earlier this month a landmark legal decision overturned Michigan's restrictive marriage amendment, sending the battle in the courtroom into what the New York Times described as "new and climactic phase."
"Decisions in the coming months will resonate beyond individual states across entire regions and may impel the Supreme Court to revisit the issue sooner than it wished," the New York Times reported.
Legal experts predict that several of the circuit courts, which hold sway over a number of states, are set to rule that state laws limiting marriage to a man and a woman are unconstitutional.
However, enforcement of these decisions could be delayed while the Supreme Court takes one or more of them to review, with a decision likely by June 2015.
If the Supreme Court does not take on the cases, they will become law throughout the circuits, compelling many more states to join the 17 that already allow same-sex marriage, reported the New York Times.
Michael C. Dorf, a constitutional expert at Cornell University Law School, said the recent wave of hearings is the "penultimate act." The next phase will start in Denver next month as the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit considers rulings that overturned marriage limits in Utah and Oklahoma.
Mr. Dorf predicts that same-sex marriage proponents will win many of the pending circuit-level decisions.
In June, 2013, the Supreme Court required the federal government to recognize married same-sex couples and indicated that discriminatory laws were rooted in prejudice. Since then supporters of same-sex marriage have won decisions in federal district courts with restrictive amendments or laws being declared unconstitutional in Virginia, Utah, Oklahoma and Michigan, and partial decisions, requiring states to recognize out-of-state marriages, have been made in Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee.
The Fourth Circuit, based in Richmond, will hear arguments in the Virginia case in May. These cases are likely to be decided by summer or fall and are likely to be key for South Carolina. The Fourth Circuit includes South Carolina, North Carolina, South Carolina and West Virginia.
Charleston City Paper reported in February how supporters of same-sex marriage in South Carolina were celebrating the Virginia ruling.
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Last fall, S.C. Highway Patrol trooper Katherine Bradacs and her spouse Tracy Goodwin filed a lawsuit over the ban. They were legally married in Washington, D.C., and argue South Carolina's ban on same-sex marriage infringes on their constitutional rights.
In 2006, South Carolina voters approved a state constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage and civil unions by a margin of 78 percent to 22 percent.
The Masella Law Firm advises many couples on family issues. Call us today at 803.748.9990.