Burnette, Shutt help fight for same-sex marriage equality in SC

COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA –Nekki Shutt and M. Malissa Burnette are two of the attorneys involved in a Charleston County same-sex couple’s fight for marriage equality.

If the legal actions succeed, South Carolina’s ban on same-sex marriages would end.

Colleen Condon and Nichols Bleckley are battling for marriage equality on two fronts in actions filed in October:

  • A civil lawsuit, Condon v Haley, against South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley and Attorney General Alan Wilson. It asks the Charleston Division of U.S. District Court, District of South Carolina to force South Carolina to adhere to a Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that ended Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to review that case, which means the appeals court ruling should apply in all states in the circuit. That includes South Carolina.
  • A petition that resulted in the South Carolina Supreme Court letting them intervene in Wilson’s attempt to block a Charleston County judge from issuing their marriage license.

Shutt and Burnette are representing Condon and Bleckley on behalf of SC Equality Coalition Inc., an organization Shutt helped found. They’re part of a team that includes local lawyers as well as from Lambda Legal. That national organization works for the rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV.

“It’s shameful that the attorney general and governor of South Carolina persist in playing politics with our families,” Shutt said. “Same-sex couples in South Carolina should be celebrating and planning weddings instead of holding their breath, waiting on court rulings. This has gone on for far too long.”

Burnette said Wilson is wasting taxpayer money battling gay marriage when it’s inevitable that same-sex marriage will be allowed in South Carolina. Of the five states in the Fourth Circuit, only South Carolina still is battling same-sex marriage.

“The law is clear,” she said. “It’s time to stop this fight and let all South Carolina couples have the same rights others do.

Prior to the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent denial of certiorari that ended Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban, a South Carolina same-sex couple married in Washington, D.C. had filed a lawsuit seeking recognition of their out-of-state marriage in order to obtain spousal benefits. That case is pending in U.S. District Court in Columbia.

Condon and Bleckley’s case is different because it involves a same-sex couple seeking to enforce their fundamental right to get a marriage license from their home state of South Carolina so they can marry here.

Shutt and Burnette both are Certified Specialists in Labor and Employment Law. They represent clients in matters including discrimination, wrongful termination and HIPAA and ERISA benefits cases. Last summer Burnette helped a South Carolina police chief get her job back. The chief contended she was fired because she’s lesbian.