Defending South Carolina’s ban on same-sex marriages in the wake of a federal appeals court ruling is pointless – unless, of course, the only point is to pander to opponents of gay marriage.
The 4th Cirtuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday that Virginia’s ban on gay marriages is unconstitutional. Both South Carolina and North Carolina also are in the 4th District, so in all likelihood, Monday’s ruling also would apply to those states.
After the ruling, N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper, a Democrat, announced that he would stop defending challenges to his state’s gay-marriage ban. But his South Carolina counterpart was not so sensible.
S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson, a Republican, announced Tuesday that he would continue to defend the state’s ban, which was approved as an amendment to the state’s constitution in 2006. Republican Gov. Nikki Haley also has pledged to fight on for the ban, saying she “will continue to uphold the will of the people.”
Gay marriage opponents apparently are pinning their hopes on the possibility that a judge might take into account that South Carolina’s ban is different from Virginia’s. South Carolina allows same-sex couples the right to draw up contracts to share assets, such as cars and homes. But chances that South Carolina’s ban ultimately will be upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court are slim.
The high court’s historic decision to strike down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act last year was a turning point for the campaign to legalize gay marriage. Since that decision, proponents of gay marriage have prevailed in more than 20 legal decisions around the nation.
Same-sex marriages already are legal in 19 states and the District of Columbia. More than 70 cases seeking to legalize gay marriage have been filed in the 31 states where it is prohibited.
Legal experts say it is just a matter of time before the Supreme Court declares that all state bans are unconstitutional. But just as important as the legal victories, the tide of public opinion also has turned in favor of recognizing the right of same-sex couples to marry, as a number of recent polls clearly show.
Wilson and Haley are swimming against that tide. While their no-surrender stance might resonate with a segment of voters, it is an unnecessary and expensive gesture.
North Carolina’s Cooper summed up the futility of continuing the legal battle: “Simply put, it is time to stop making arguments we will lose and instead move forward, knowing that the ultimate resolution will likely come from the U.S. Supreme Court.” He said that North Carolina will acknowledge the 4th Circuit Court’s opinion that marriage is a fundamental right and will be bound by it.
In South Carolina, meanwhile, state gay-rights advocates plan to start a petition drive asking Wilson to stop defending the ban. We wish that an appeal to common sense would make such a petition drive unnecessary.