by Paul Bowers
Attorney General Alan Wilson announced early this afternoon that he will continue to defend South Carolina's constitutional amendment defining legal marriage as strictly between one man and one woman.
Wilson's announcement comes after U.S. District Judge Richard M. Gergel ruled this morning that the same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional, citing a ruling in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals that struck down a similar ban in Virginia. (The Fourth Circuit rules on cases in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.) Wilson issued the following statement at about 1:45 p.m.:
Today's ruling comes as no surprise and does not change the constitutional obligation of this Office to defend South Carolina law, including, but not necessarily limited to, appeal to the Fourth Circuit. Therefore, we will immediately appeal to the Fourth Circuit.
Also, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals recently upheld traditional marriage. Therefore, we have opposing rulings between federal circuits, which means it is much more likely that the U.S. Supreme Court could resolve the matter at the national level. We believe this office has an obligation to defend state law as long as we have a viable path to do so.
Finally, our state's laws on marriage are not identical to those in other states. Therefore, based on the time-honored tradition of federalism, this Office believes South Carolina's unique laws should have their day in court at the highest appropriate level.
Wilson stands in contrast to attorneys general in North Carolina and West Virginia, who refused to defend their own states' bans following the Fourth Circuit ruling. In late July, immediately following the Fourth Circuit ruling, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper told the Associated Press, "Our office, along with other attorneys general and state attorneys across the country, have made about every legal argument imaginable. Since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Windsor case, all the federal courts have rejected these arguments each and every time. So it's time for the State of North Carolina to stop making them."
A spokesman has said that the South Carolina attorney general's office does not have a way of tracking the taxpayer money spent defending the marriage ban. He said today that the office has not hired any outside attorneys to help with the defense.