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Homosexual activists are celebrating yet another federal court victory, as an Obama-appointed U.S. District Court judge ruled South Carolina’s marriage protection laws unconstitutional.

South Carolina is forbidden by statute and its constitution to create or recognize same-sex “marriages” or civil unions for homosexual couples.  The state constitution was amended in 2006 to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman, with the approval of 78 percent of voters. 

But Judge Richard Gergel ruled Wednesday that the ban on same-sex “marriage” violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution, citing a 4th Circuit Court ruling in neighboring Virginia which struck down that state’s marriage protection amendment.  The 4th Circuit Court has jurisdiction over Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, and South Carolina.  Of those five states, only South Carolina is still fighting to defend true marriage.

“This court has carefully reviewed the language of South Carolina's constitutional and statutory ban on same sex marriage and now finds that there is no meaningful distinction between the existing South Carolina provisions and those of Virginia declared unconstitutional,” Gergel wrote in his decision.

“The Court finds that [the Virginia decision] controls the disposition of the issues before this court and establishes, without question, the right of Plantiffs to marry as same sex partners. The arguments of Defendant Wilson simply attempt to relitigate matters already addressed and resolved in [the Virginia decision.]”

Anticipating further legal action in the case, Judge Gergel stayed his own decision until November 20, giving Attorney General Alan Wilson a week to file an appeal with the 4th Circuit Court.  Although the 4th Circuit has already ruled in favor of redefining marriage to include same-sex couples, Wilson says he’ll appeal anyway, both because he’s obligated to defend state law to the very end, and because South Carolina’s marriage protection laws are “unique.”

“Our state's laws on marriage are not identical to those in other states,” Wilson said in a statement. “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.”

The 4th Circuit is not required to hear the case.  If they reject it, then South Carolina will be forced to begin issuing marriage licenses on November 20.  Even if that happens, however, it’s unlikely it will be the end of the debate. 

Because the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled to uphold marriage protection laws in four of the states over which it has jurisdiction, there is now a split opinion between it and the 4th, 7th, 9th, and 10th Circuits, which have all ruled in favor of gay “marriage.”  That means all eyes are on the U.S. Supreme Court, the only entity that can settle the dispute between the various Circuit Courts. 

The high court has until January 16 to decide whether to review the issue during this session. 

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