United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division
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For Anne Nichols Bleckley, Colleen Therese Condon, Plaintiffs: Elizabeth L Littrell, LEAD ATTORNEY, PRO HAC VICE, Lambda Legal, Atlanta, GA; Mary Malissa Burnette, Nekki Shutt, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Callison Tighe and Robinson, Columbia, SC; Victoria Lamonte Eslinger, LEAD ATTORNEY, Nexsen Pruet Jacobs and Pollard, Columbia, SC.
For Alan Wilson, in his official capacity as Attorney General, Defendant: Ian Parks Weschler, LEAD ATTORNEY, Office of Attorney General (SC), Columbia, SC; James Emory Smith, Jr, Robert Dewayne Cook, LEAD ATTORNEYS, SC Attorney General's Office, Columbia, SC.
For Irvin G Condon, in his official capacity as Probate Judge of Charleston County, Defendant: John Shannon Nichols, LEAD ATTORNEY, Bluestein and Nichols, Columbia, SC; Richard S Rosen, LEAD ATTORNEY, Rosen Rosen and Hagood, Charleston, SC.
Richard Mark Gergel, United States District Judge.
Plaintiffs, a same sex couple seeking to marry, challenge South Carolina's statutory and constitutional provisions prohibiting marriage between persons of the same sex. S.C. Code Ann. § § 20-1-10, 20-1-15; S.C. Constitution Art. XVII § 15. Plaintiffs assert such provisions of South Carolina law infringe upon their fundamental right to marry, a liberty interest protected by the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. (Dkt. No.1). Plaintiffs argue that the Fourth Circuit's recent decision in Bostic v. Schaefer, 760 F.3d 352 (4th Cir. 2014), cert. denied, Schaefer v. Bostic, 135 S.Ct. 308, 190 L.Ed.2d 140 (2014), is controlling. (Dkt. No. 13). Defendants Nikki Haley and Alan Wilson, sued in their official capacities as the Governor and Attorney General of South Carolina, assert that matters related to marital status are reserved exclusively to the states. (Dkt. No. 29 at 11-29; Dkt. No. 33-1 at 8-26). These two defendants further argue that the Fourth Circuit's recent decision in Bostic is wrongly decided because that court improperly disregarded the controlling law of Baker v. Nelson, 291 Minn. 310, 191 N.W.2d 185 (1971), summarily dismissed, 409 U.S. 810, 93 S.Ct. 37, 34 L.Ed.2d 65 (1972), and the Fourth Circuit's own precedent in finding that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment created a fundamental right of same sex couples to marry. (Dkt. No. 29 at 5-11; Dkt. No. 33-1 at 2-8; Dkt. No. 34 at 2-3). Defendant Condon, who began accepting same sex marriage applications on October 8, 2014, in compliance with Bostic, presently " takes no position regarding the merits of the Plaintiffs' claims for relief." (Dkt. No. 35 at 6).
Plaintiffs have now moved for summary judgment and seek declaratory and injunctive relief. (Dkt. No. 13). Defendants Haley and Wilson oppose that motion. As further set forth below, the Court finds that Bostic provides clear and controlling legal authority in this ...