South Carolina paying $215K to gay marriage plaintiffs

Charleston County Councilwoman Colleen Condon, right, and her fiance, Nichols Bleckley, walk into the marriage license division offices to pick up their license Nov. 19, 2014 at the Charleston County Judicial Center. The state will be paying legal fees for Condon and Bleckley, as well as Columbia couple Katherine Bradacs and Tracie Goodwin.

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina is paying about $215,000 in legal fees to two couples who challenged the state’s ban on same-sex marriage in the federal courts.

Same-sex couples sued in federal courts in Charleston and Columbia for the right to be married or for South Carolina to recognize their marriage performed out of state. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that same-sex marriage is the law of the land.

In the Charleston case, U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel last month ordered that the state reimburse Colleen Condon and her partner Nichols Bleckley just over $135,000 for legal fees.

The couple last year sued the state to get a marriage license. In an earlier petition to the court, they sought $153,000 to cover their court costs. The petition said the figure represented 446 hours of work on the case by seven attorneys.

In the Columbia case, court documents filed earlier this month show that state Attorney General Alan Wilson reached a settlement on fees agreeing to pay Highway Patrol Trooper Katherine Bradacs and U.S. Air Force retiree Tracie Goodwin $80,000 for their legal costs.

The couple, married earlier in the District of Columbia, had sued the state to have their marriage recognized.

They had originally sought $92,000 in fees and court costs. Their petition said that included 265 hours of time devoted to the case by three attorneys.

Gergel noted in his ruling that there was one major difference in the work done by the attorneys in the two cases.

He said that attorneys for Condon and Bleckley had to spend considerable time contesting the state’s attempts before the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court to block the issuing of their marriage license.

Judges can order losing parties to pay opponents’ fees, especially in civil rights cases.