Roe overturn sparks fears same-sex marriage protection could be repealed too

Published: Jul. 28, 2022 at 8:04 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 28, 2022 at 9:50 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - The U.S. Supreme Court’s overturn of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision last month has opened the door for states, including South Carolina, to weigh imposing tighter restrictions and even total bans on abortions.

It has also sparked fears that other protections, such as marriage equality, could be repealed in the future as well.

Conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in his concurring opinion on the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, which reversed Roe, that the high court should also reconsider the precedents set by other rulings, including that of Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015, which requires every state license and recognize same-sex marriages.

“Here in South Carolina, we still have the Marriage Act of 2006 on the books, so should Obergefell be overturned, South Carolina law says that I’m not married in this state,” Terry Livingston of Myrtle Beach said.

Livingston and his husband, Steve Gamble, were married in Washington, D.C., in 2013, but it was not until November 2014 that same-sex marriage was legally recognized in South Carolina after a federal court ordered it to do so.

The Supreme Court’s ruling the next summer in the Obergefell decision protected that nationwide.

“I don’t want to go back to the times of, the marital status is, ‘It depends,’” Livingston said.

Concerns about a potential repeal on the horizon have led to a push on Capitol Hill to safeguard same-sex marriage at the federal level.

The “Respect for Marriage Act,” which would require the federal government to recognize same-sex marriage but not force states to do so if Obergefell is overturned, passed the U.S. House of Representatives last week.

More than 40 Republicans joined every Democrat in voting for it, including Rep. Tom Rice and Rep. Nancy Mace of South Carolina.

In a statement on her vote, Mace said, “If gay couples want to be as happily or miserably married as straight couples, more power to them.”

But the legislation’s future in the Senate is unclear, as Democratic leaders are currently trying to secure enough Republican votes to prevent the bill from being doomed with a filibuster.

Sen. Lindsey Graham said his vote will not be among them.

“If you ask me what should I be doing as a senator from South Carolina on the issue of marriage, allow the people I represent to decide that issue,” Graham said.

The South Carolina Republican told reporters this week in Greenville County that he thinks the legality of same-sex marriage should be left up to each state to decide as they are now doing for abortion.

“There is a standing constitutional case that defines, that allows, that protects same-sex marriage,” Graham said. “The fear that it may be overturned tomorrow, I don’t share.”

Graham also said he believes the push in Congress is an issue Democrats are using to drive voters to the polls in this midterm election year, a sentiment echoed by Republican Gov. Henry McMaster this week as well.

“I think that is an absolute distraction. That is not an issue in our state. I think that the Democratic side, led by President Biden, are going off the cliff. I think they’re desperate for some issues,” McMaster told reporters Wednesday in Columbia. “These issues, I think, the Democrats, the left, are just trying to dream up things to distract from the failures of the Biden administration.”

But it is a matter on the minds of South Carolinians like Livingston, who believe this legislation should be getting more support.

“We’re almost to the point in the country where marriage is marriage,” he said. “We don’t talk about gay marriage or straight marriage. It’s just marriage.”

Livingston said while he believes that the bill is “a good start,” more should still be done at the federal and state levels to ensure protections for marriage equality and for LGBTQ+ Americans.

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