Meet the couple challenging SC's gay marriage ban

Katherine Bradacs and Tracie Goodwin (Source: Bluestein, Nichols, Thompson & Delgado)
Katherine Bradacs and Tracie Goodwin (Source: Bluestein, Nichols, Thompson & Delgado)

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - A Highway Patrol Trooper and her partner will be the first South Carolinians to challenge the state's constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and civil unions in the wake of the US Supreme Court's landmark decision striking down parts of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

Trooper Katherine Bradacs and Tracie Goodwin and their attorney, John Nichols, filed a lawsuit in US District Court on Aug. 28.

The suit aims to prove parts of South Carolina's Marriage Law and the constitutional amendment violate the rights of gay and lesbian couples in the Palmetto State.

Bradacs and Goodwin married in Washington DC in 2012, and their marriage is legally recognized by the federal government as a result of early summer US Supreme Court case US vs. Windsor, which found restricting the definitions of "marriage" and "spouse" to heterosexual unions was unconstitutional.

But they want their marriage to be recognized by the state as well.

The state's Marriage Law was amended in 1996 to prohibit same-sex marriages and the 2007 constitutional amendment prohibits and prevents the marriages from being fully recognized.

"By defining marriage in this way, South Carolina discriminates on the basis of sex," said the suit. "The Supreme Court has made clear that perpetuation of traditional gender roles is not a legitimate government interest."

The suit goes even further, saying the state's laws on same-sex marriage fail "any level of constitutional scrutiny."

"Neither traditional nor moral disapproval of same-sex relationships or marriage for gay and lesbian couples is a legitimate basis for unequal treatment of same-sex couples under the law," said the suit.

Goodwin and Bradacs also want their marriage recognized in order to be eligible for federal benefits since Bradacs is classified as a disabled United States Air Force Veteran.

"If her marriage to Plaintiff Bradacs was recognized in the State of South Carolina, not only could Plaintiff Bradacs be entitled to make a claim as a surviving beneficiary of Plaintiff Goodwin's VA benefits, but Plaintiff Goodwin would be entitled to receive more in disability from the VA if her marriage to Plaintiff Bradacs were recognized in the State of South Carolina," said the suit.

Other lawsuits similar to the one filed here in South Carolina have popped up since the Supreme Court decision in June. Suits in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina also take aim at those states with constitutional bans on same-sex marriage.

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