South Carolina LGBT Laws

Civil Unions, Partners: Domestic, Registered Legislation/Cases/References
See also: [MARRIAGE]
1. State

No municipalities are known to offer domestic partner benefits.

Discrimination Legislation/Cases/References
See also: [VIOLENCE]
1. State

On 30 April 2013, the Workplace Fairness Act (H. 4025), a bill protecting all workers from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity was expected to be introduced in the South Carolina House of Representatives [R1.1].

2. County

On 07 June 2011, Richland County passed a non-discrimination ordinance on public accommodations and housing, defining “sexual orientation” as “a person’s real or perceived heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality or gender identity or expression.” The ordinance also established a fine of $500 for offenders [R2.1].

3. Cities & Towns

On 21 November 2014, it was reported that the Latta Town Council passed 6-0 the Equal Employment Opportunity Ordinance: [R3.4]

Equal Employment Opportunity Ordinance:

It is the policy of The Town of Latta to provide equal opportunity to all applicants for employment, and to administer hiring, compensation, training, promotions, transfer, discipline and other terms and conditions of employment without discrimination in regards to race, color, religion, gender, disability, age or national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Anyone who believes that he/she has been discriminated against in violation of this policy should report the matter to his/her supervisor or Department Head, or Human Resources Department, any member of Council or the Mayor. [R3.4]

On 10 June 2014, the six member Myrtle Beach city council voted to include the terms “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” in the human rights ordinance, which prohibits discrimination in “housing, employment, City services and programs, law enforcement, education and public accommodations [R3.3].

On 13 March 2012, the Folly Beach city council voted unanimously to pass a non-discrimination ordinance making it unlawful to discriminate in public accommodations based on real or perceived sexual orientation (but not gender identity – to be added in a couple of months). Violations may incur a $500 fine or 30 days in jail [R3.2].

On 24 November 2009, the Charleston city council passed two ordinances that together prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in housing and public accommodations [R3.1].

In 1999, the city of Columbia is understood to have similar ordinances [R3.1].

R1.1 qnotes: South Carolina non-discrimination bill to be introduced next week 26 APR 13
R2.1 qnotes: South Carolina county passes non-discrimination ordinance 08 JUN 11
R3.4 wfla: Latta becomes South Carolina’s smallest town to pass LGBT-friendly Non-Discrimination Ordinances 21 NOV 14
R3.3 qnotes: Myrtle Beach passes far-reaching LGBT protections 11 JUN 14
R3.2 The Advocate: South Carolina City Adopts Non-discrimination Ordinance 15 MAR 12
R3.1 The Advocate: Charleston Passes Nondiscrimination Ordinances 25 NOV 09
Gender Identity, Intersex,
Transgender, Transexual
1. Cities & Towns

On 24 November 2009, the Charleston city council passed two ordinances that together prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in housing and public accommodations [R1.1].

2. Courts & Tribunals

On 24 July 2017, the South Carolina Court of Common Pleas approved the settlement, totalling $440,000 over 16 years, of claims alleged on behalf of the minor M.C. for alleged medical malpractice, incurred medical bills, pain and suffering, psychological damages, and permanent impairment as a result of sex reassignment surgery carried out whilst an infant in care in 2006, with the defendants denial of liability [C2.9], [R2.8].

On 26 January 2015, the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit reversed and remanded the US District Court for the District of South Carolina decision denying officials’ and doctors’ motions to dismiss on qualified immunity grounds, finding that reasonable officals in 2006 were not put on notice by then-existing law that the sex assignment surgery was violation of M.C.’s constitutional right to reproduction, barring M.C.’s federal constitutional claims [C2.7].

On 10 April 2014, the Fifth Judicial Circuit Court in North Carolina reportedly rejected a motion from the state Social Services Department to delay M.C. v. Aaronson, a case [C2.3] brought by the parents of an 8-year-old child who was given sexual-reassignment surgery while under the state’s care [R2.6].

On 29 August 2013, US District Judge David C. Norton of the South Carolina Charleston Division denied a motion by the defendants to dismiss the M.C. v. Aaronson case, ruling from the bench following oral arguments [C2.5], [R2.4].

On 14 May 2013, Mark and Pam Crawford, the adoptive parents of an intersex child MC filed lawsuits in both State and Federal Courts against a South Carolina hospital and the social services department for performing ‘irreversible and medically unnecessary’ surgery [C2.3], [C2.2], [R2.1].

R1.1 The Advocate: Charleston Passes Nondiscrimination Ordinances 25 NOV 09
2. Courts & Tribunals
C2.9 Order Approving Settlement on Behalf of a Minor: Pamela and John Mark Crawford v. Medical University of South Carolina & et al. No. 13-CP-40-02877 PDF 282.84kb 24 JUL 17
R2.8 BuzzFeedNews: A Landmark Lawsuit About An Intersex Baby’s Genital Surgery Just Settled For $440,000 27 JUL 17
R2.7 Opinion: M.C. v. Dr James Amrhein and Dr Ian Aaronson et al. No. 13-2178 PDF
R2.6 GenderIdentityWatch: Court ruling rejects delay by DSS in child sex-reassignment case PDF 47202kb, 10 APR 14
C2.5 Order: M.C. v. Dr Ian Anderson, et. al. 2:13-cv-01303-DCN PDF 304.25kb, 29 AUG 13
R2.4 Southern Poverty Law Center: Federal court says sex-assignment surgery on child could violate U.S. Constitution, refuses to dismiss case 23 AUG 13
C2.3 Complaint: M.C. v. Aaronson 2:13-cv-01303-DCN PDF 135.98kb, 14 MAY 13
C2.2 Summons: M.C. v. Medical University of South Carolina 2013CP400-2877 PDF 2.64MB, 14 MAY 13
R2.1 GayStarNews: Landmark case for intersex rights: parents sue over surgery 15 MAY 13
HIV, Aids Legislation/Cases/References
1. State

On 10 July 2013, the South Carolina Department of Corrections said it intends to stop housing its HIV-positive inmates in facilities separate from the rest of its prisoners, as it has done since 1998. No date for the policy change is set, but officials hope it will happen in the next six months, department spokesman Clark Newsom said [R1.1].

R1.1 CNN: South Carolina to stop separating HIV inmates from other prisoners 11 JUL 13
Homosexuality, Sodomy Legislation/Cases/References
1. State

Sodomy is unlawful in South Carolina.

South Carolina Code Title 16 Crimes and Offenses, Chapter 15 Offence Against Morality and Decency, Article 1 Miscellaneous Offences [L1.3]

Section 16-15-120. Buggery.

Whoever shall commit the abominable crime of buggery, whether with mankind or with beast, shall, on conviction, be guilty of felony and shall be imprisoned in the Penitentiary for five years or shall pay a fine of not less than five hundred dollars, or both, at the discretion of the court.

See 2. Courts & Trbunals

On 16 August 2012, the American Civil Liberties Union wrote to both the Greenville Country Sheriff’s Office and the South Carolina state solicitor’s office to deplore the tactics of approaching people parked in their cars, sitting on their own porches or simply walking down the street and asking them to engage in illegal sexual activities, but then arresting them when they either declined or suggested engaging in legal private sexual acts instead [D1.2], [R1.1].

2. Courts & Tribunals

The June 2003 US Supreme Court ruling in Lawrence & Garner -v- Texas that a similar the law in Texas was an unconstitutional violation of privacy is thought to nullify or invalidate the South Carolina law [C2.2], [R2.1].

L1.3 South Carolina Code: Section 16-15 (Accessed 11 JUN 09)
D1.2 ACLU: Letter to Greenville County Sheriff & Others PDF 2.38MB, 16 AUG 12
R1.1 GayStarNews: South Carolina county sheriffs warned over illegal entrapment of gay men 19 AUG 12
C2.2 US Supreme Court: Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U. S. 558 (2003) 26 JUN 03
R2.1 Associated Press: Supreme Court Strikes Down Gay Sex Ban 26 JUN 03
Marriage Legislation/Cases/References
1. State

South Carolina Code, Title 20 Domestic Relations, Chapter 1 Marriage, Article 1 General Provisions [L1.1]

Section 20–1–10. Persons who may contract matrimony (emphasis added)

(A) All persons, except mentally incompetent persons and persons whose marriage is prohibited by this section, may lawfully contract matrimony.

(B) No man shall marry his mother, grandmother, daughter, granddaughter, stepmother, sister, grandfather’s wife, son’s wife, grandson’s wife, wife’s mother, wife’s grandmother, wife’s daughter, wife’s granddaughter, brother’s daughter, sister’s daughter, father’s sister, mother’s sister, or another man.

(C) No woman shall marry her father, grandfather, son, grandson, stepfather, brother, grandmother’s husband, daughter’s husband, granddaughter’s husband, husband’s father, husband’s grandfather, husband’s son, husband’s grandson, brother’s son, sister’s son, father’s brother, mother’s brother, or another woman.

Section 20–1–15. Prohibition of same sex marriage

A marriage between persons of the same sex is void ab initio and against the public policy of this State.

In 1996 the law in South Carolina was amended to prohibit marriages between same-sex couples and the recognition of gay marriages in other states.

2. Courts & Tribunals

On 10 August 2015, US District Court Judge Richard Gergel ordered the South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson pay $130,600 for 390 hours legal work and $4,700 for court costs and fees in the Colleen Condon and Nichols Bleckley case challenging the state ban on same-sex marriage. Judge Gergel noted that South Carolina was the only state in the Fourth Circuit to still enforce its gay marriage ban after the court found a similar ban in Virginia unconstitutional [R2.16].

On 20 November 2014, US Supreme Court denied a stay request filed by South Carolina’s attorney general in the Wilson, Att’y Gen. of SC v. Condon, Colleen T., et al. same-sex marriage ban case [C2.15], [R2.14].

On 18 November 2014, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals refused to stay a lower court ruling from November 12 that struck down South Carolina’s marriage ban and marriages may commence on Thursday 20 November. The State has filed an Emergency Application to the US Supreme Court to Stay the US District Court Order [C2.13], [C2.12], [R2.11].

On 18 November 2014, Judge J Michelle Childs in the US District Court, Columbia Division, ruled in the Katherine Bradacs and Tracie Goodwin v. Nimrata (Nikki) Randhawa Haley and Alan Wilson case that the state’s ban on recognizing legal same-sex marriages is unconstitutional [R2.11], [C2.10].

On 13 November 2014, Attorney General Alan Wilson filed a motion for an emergency stay in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in the Condon and Bleckley v. Haley and Wilson case [C2.9].

On 12 November 2014, US District Court Judge Richard Mark Gergel found the State’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, granting a permanent injunction against enforcing the law, temporarily stayed until 20 November pending an appeal to the Court of Appeal for the Fourth Circuit [C2.8], [R2.7].

On 07 November 2014, Governor Nikki Haley and Attorney General Alan Wilson filed a motion to stop Colleen Condon and Anne Bleckley from getting married, citing the 2-1 Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals decision in an Ohio case [R2.6].

On 15 October 2014, Colleen Condon and Anne Bleckley filed a complaint against Governor Nikki Haley, Attorney General Alan Wilson and Probate Judge Irvin Condon challenging the state ban on same-sex marriage. The case is before US Judge Richard Gergel [R2.6].

On 09 October 2014, the State Supreme Court ordered probate judges not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples following Charleston County Probate Judge Irvin Condon order on 8 October that a license be given to Charleston County Councilwoman Colleen Condon and Nichols Bleckley [R2.5].

On 06 October 2014, the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit issued its mandate in the Virginia case of Bostic v. McQuigg allowing same-sex marriages to proceed this day. The decision in this Virginia case, entered 28 July 2014, may also affect same-sex marriage cases in North Carolina, South Carolina and West Virginia [C2.4], [R2.3].

On 02 September 2013, it was reported that Katherine Bradacs and Tracie Goodwin had filed a lawsuit against Gov. Nikki Haley and State Attorney General Alan Wilson in the US District Court in Columbia, seeking an injunction prohibiting South Carolina from enforcing the Defense of Marriage Act and the section of the state Constitution that bans same-sex marriages [R2.2].

In August 2013, Katherine Bradacs and Tracie Goodwin filed a complaint seeking to have their 2012 District of Columbia marriage recognised by the state. The case is before Federal Judge Michelle Childs [R2.6].

In December 1998, two Summerville women who married each other faced charges for breaking state law. One of the women reportedly gave a man’s name when she applied for a driver’s license, which was used for the marriage license [R2.1].

L1.1 South Carolina Code: Section 20–1 (Accessed 11 JUN 09)
R2.16 WJCL: South Carolina Attorney General ordered to pay same sex couple $135,000 10 AUG 15
C2.15 Order in Pending Case: Wilson, Att’y Gen. of SC v. Condon, Colleen T., et al. No. 14A533 PDF 26.76kb, 20 NOV 14
R2.14 EqualityOnTrial: Supreme Court declines to stop South Carolina same-sex marriages 20 NOV 14
C2.13 Emergency Application to US Supreme Court to Stay US District Court Order: Alan Wilson v. Colleen Therese Condon and Anne Nichols Bleckley No. A14- PDF 3.39MB, 18 NOV 14
C2.12 4th Circuit Order: Anne Nichols Bleckley, et al., v. Alan Wilson et al. No. 1403341 PDF 18.69kb, 18 NOV 14
R2.11 EqualityOnTrial: Fourth Circuit declines to issue stay in South Carolina same-sex marriage case 18 NOV 14
C2.10 US District Court Order and Opinion: Katherine Bradacs and Tracie Goodwin v. Nimrata (Nikki) Randhawa Haley and Alan Wilson 3:13-cv-02351-JMC PDF 99.52kbkb, 18 NOV 14
C2.9 Motion for Emergency Stay: Condon and Bleckley v. Haley and Wilson No. 14-2241 PDF 2.64MB, 13 NOV 14
C2.8 Order: Coleen T Condon and Ann N Bleckley v. Nimrata Haley, et al. No. 2:14-cv-04010-RMG PDF 1.22MB, 12 NOV 14
R2.7 EqualityOnTrial: South Carolina same-sex marriage ban struck down 12 NOV 14
R2.6 CharlotteObserver: SC officials file motion to stop gay couple from marrying in Charleston 09 NOV 14
R2.5 GayStarNews: South Carolina’s Supreme Court orders a halt of marriage licenses to same-sex couples 09 OCT 14
C2.4 Mandate: Timothy B Bostic, et al., v. Michelle McQuigg, et. al. No. 14-1173 PDF 39.67kb, 06 OCT 14
R2.3 EdgeOnTheNet: Court: Gay Marriages in Virginia Can Begin Monday 06 OCT 14
R2.2 HeraldOnline: Gay couple files federal lawsuit attacking SC’s marriage law 02 SEP 13
R2.1 Charleston Post & Courier: Same-Sex Marriage Couple Charged 17 DEC 98
Parenting, Adoption, Fostering Legislation/Cases/References
1. State

There is no statutory ban preventing gay men and lesbians adopting children in South Carolina.

The Department of Social Services has thus far simply looked for a safe and stable home for a child [R1.1].


On 23 January 2019, the US Department and Health and Human Services reportedly granted Republican Governor Henry McMaster’s request for a waiver to allow the state Department of Social Service to license faith-based child-placement agencies that will enable the agencies to discriminate against foster parent applicants because they are same-sex couples [R1.3].

See: 2. Courts & Tribunals below at [C2.3], [R2.2]

On 29 June 2018, the State Legislature was reported to have advanced an appropriations bill with an anti-LGBTQ measure allowing publicly funded adoption agencies to discriminate against a range of prospective parents, including same-sex couples, single mothers and interfaith couples. Governor Henry McMaster has been urged to veto the discriminatory provision within the larger budget [R1.2].

In August 2003, a bill that would bar adoption by gay men and lesbians was before the Senate Judiciary Committee [R1.1].

2. Courts & Tribunals

On 30 May 2019, a complaint was filed on behalf of married lesbian couple Eden Rogers and Brandy Welch challenging the state’s practice of letting taxpayer-funded foster care agencies reject prospective parents who don’t share their religious beliefs after they were turned away by a government-funded foster care agency for failing to meet the agency’s religious criteria, which exclude prospective foster parents who are not evangelical Protestant Christian or who are same-sex couples of any faith [C2.3], [R2.2].

On 15 February 2017, Judge Mary Geiger Lewis in the US District Court for the District of South Carolina determined that in preventing the placement of both Casy and Jacqueline Carson’s names as parents on their children’s birth certificates the state went against the Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges. The Court found that the state’s actions violated their Fourteenth Amendment rights as well as their ”fundamental right to marriage and other protected liberties” [R2.1].

R1.3 TheHerald: Foster-care ruling: Victory for religious freedom or bias? 23 JAN 19
R1.2 HumanRightsCampaign: Discrimination in South Carolina: Legislature Sends Appropriations Bill with Anti-LGBTQ Provision to Governor 29 JUN 18
R1.1 South Carolina Considers Banning Gay Adoption 11 AUG 03
2. Courts & Tribunals
C2.3 Complaint: Eden Rogers and Brandy Welch v. US Department of Health and Human Services, et al. No. 6:19-cv-01567-TMC PDF 333.82kb 30 MAY 19
R2.2 LambdaLegal: LGBT Advocates Sue Trump HHS and South Carolina for Discriminating Against Same-Sex Foster Parents 30 MAY 19
C2.2 Opinion: Casy Carson and Jacqueline Carson v. Catherine E Heigel No. 3:16-0045-MGL PDF 63.35kb 15 FEB 17
R2.1 Jurist: Federal judge orders South Carolina to list both same-sex parents on birth certificate 17 FEB 17
Taxation Legislation/Cases/References
1. State

On 03 February 2014, the Department of Revenue advisory opinion concluded that South Carolina does not recognize same-sex marriages. Same-sex couples considered married for federal income tax purposes must use a filing status of single or, if applicable, head of household for South Carolina income tax purposes and prepare their South Carolina returns as though they are single [D1.2], [R1.1].

D1.2 Department of Revenue: SC Revenue Ruling #14-1 PDF 27.36kb, 03 FEB 14
R1.1 WLTX: South Carolina Rules Same Sex Married Couples Can’t File Jointly 06 FEB 14
Violence: Bullying, Domestic Violence, Harassment, Vilification Legislation/Cases/References
1. Cities & Towns

On 21 November 2014, it was reported that the Latta Town Council passed 6-0 the Anti-Harassment Ordinance: [R1.1]

Anti-Harassment Ordinance

Various laws and regulations generally prohibit employment decisions from being made on the basis of race, gender, national origin, color, age, disability, sexual orientation, or similar distinctions. In addition, it is our desire to provide a working environment in which employees are free from discomfort or pressure resulting in jokes, ridicule, slurs, threats and/or harassment relating to such distinctions or simply resulting from a lack of consideration for a fellow human being.[R1.1]

2. Courts & Tribunals

On 18 December 2018, it was reported that York County Magistrate Michael Scurlock announced in a preliminary court hearing that he and other judges are to find probable cause in domestic violence preliminary hearings involving unmarried, same-sex couples, if prosecutors can prove cohabitation along with other evidence requirements. The decision means that all same-sex domestic violence victims across South Carolina now have the same protections under the law as any other person [R2.12].

On 05 December 2018, it was reported that York County Magistrate Michael Scurlock dismissed two domestic violence cases involving unmarried same-sex defendants in co-habitation relationships during a preliminary hearing for lack of probable cause, because the Code of Laws says that domestic violence for the purposes of the criminal law is between a man and a woman. At least six cases in recent weeks have been dismissed at preliminary hearing because of the same ruling [R2.11].

On 17 November 2017, the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled that two sections of the State’s domestic violence law are unconstitutional as applied to Jane Doe because neither affords protection from domestic abuse for unmarried, same-sex individuals who are cohabiting or formerly have cohabited by exclusion from the definition of ”household member”. The Court ruled the family court may not utilize these statutory provisions to prevent Doe or those in similar same-sex relationships from seeking an Order of Protection [C2.10], [R2.9].

On 28 July 2017, Supreme Court stayed its ruling that people in same-sex relationships should be entitled to the same legal protection against domestic violence as heterosexual couples, after the unmarried were inadvertently excluded [C2.8], [R2.7].

On 26 July 2017, Acting Justice Costa Pleicones for the majority in the Supreme Court found portion of the state’s domestic violence law unconstitutional, ruling that people in same-sex relationships in South Carolina should get the same legal protections against domestic violence as heterosexual couples [C2.6], [R2.5].

On 23 March 2016, the State Supreme Court heard a case that could allow domestic violence law to include same-sex, unmarried couples, the chief justice telling Attorney General’s Office lawyers that South Carolina’s domestic violence statute as applied to same-sex couples is pretty clearly unconstitutional. Justices said they could issue a ruling that says the law is unconstitutionally applied to same-sex, unmarried couples and wondered if S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson could issue an opinion saying the law should be applied in those situations [C2.4], [R2.3].

On 03 March 2011, the Fourth Circuit court of appeals held that an employer is liable under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for sexual harassment conducted by a non-employee against an employee [C2.2], [R2.1].

R1.1 wfla: Latta becomes South Carolina’s smallest town to pass LGBT-friendly Non-Discrimination Ordinances 21 NOV 14
2. Courts & Tribunals
R2.12 TheHerald: York County judge: South Carolina law protects same-sex domestic violence victims 19 DEC 18
R2.11 TheHerald: York County judges toss same-sex domestic violence cases; SC law doesn’t protect them 05 DEC 18
C2.10 Order and Declaratory Judgment: Jane Doe v. State of South Carolina No. 2015-001726 PDF 239.82kb 17 NOV 17
R2.9 MyrtleBeachOnline: State Supreme Court rules on domestic violence law 18 NOV 17
C2.8 Order: Jane Doe, v, State of South Carolina No. 2015-001726 HTML 28 JUL 17 (Accessed 01 AUG 17)
R2.7 ReutersUS: South Carolina court delays same-sex domestic violence ruling 29 JUL 17
C2.6 Declaratory Judgment: Jane Doe, v, State of South Carolina No. 2015-001726 PDF 309.20kb 26 JUL 17
R2.5 TheCharlotteObserver: Court: Violence law unfair to gay South Carolina couples 26 JUL 17
C2.4 Case: Jane Doe v. State of South Carolina No. 2015-001726
R2.3 ThePostandCourier: S.C. Supreme Court says domestic violence law discriminates toward same-sex couples, but is unsure of fix 23 MAR 16
C2.2 EEOC v. Cromer Food Services, Inc., 2011 WL 733814 (4th Cir., March 3, 2011)
R2.1 Lesbian/Gay Law Notes: 4th Circuit Finds Employer May Be Liable for Customer’s Homophobic Sexual Harassment of Employee PDF 446.78kb, 04 APR 11