U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel in Charleston, South Carolina ordered state officials to stop enforcing a ban on same-sex marriage.
The judge acknowledged that South Carolina is bound by a regional federal appeals court that struck down a similar Virginia ban. South Carolina and Virginia are two of five states in the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The ruling found no meaningful distinction between South Carolina’s ban and the ban deemed unconstitutional in Virginia. Gergel added that the ban violated the Constitution’s due process and equal protection clauses.
The decision will not take effect for one week, giving the state one week to appeal. Same sex couples can apply for a marriage license on Nov. 20 at noon EST.
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The case was brought by a lesbian couple who were denied their marriage license by the South Carolina Supreme Court last month.
According to CNN, same sex marriage is legal in 32 states and the District of Columbia. It is banned in 12 states and currently under court review in 6 states, South Carolina included. 16 other countries have some sort of law allowing same sex marriage, mostly in Europe and South America.
Republicans have historically been opposed to same-sex marriage, promoting that the right to define marriage has always been between a man and a women. Despite what conservatives try to preserve, the law is increasingly ruling that same sex marriage is an equal protection right that the law must allow.
Although Republicans overwhelmingly won in the recent midterm elections, same sex marriage was rarely a talking point on the campaign trail. Now that the courts have been deciding the law on same sex marriage, Republicans have not focused on the issue as much.
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As Republicans try to steer away from talking about marriage equality, the presidential race of 2016 approaches -- where the debate will almost certainly fire up again.