Major Benjamin Issues Order

October 8, 2014

 C I T Y O F C O L U M B I A
O F F I C E O F T H E M A Y O R  
October 8, 2014    
To City Council, City Manager Wilson and HR Director Benjamin
As you may know, there has been a significant amount of recent movement regarding marriage equity here in South Carolina and across the nation.
On Monday the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear several cases, including one in the same jurisdiction as South Carolina, where federal appeals court judges have overturned bans on same-sex marriage.  
Following that decision, U.S. District Judge Michelle Childs on Tuesday signaled that she intends to take up the local pending marriage equity case Bradacs v. Wilson asking attorneys on both sides to submit briefs to the court by Tuesday, October 15.  
Finally, today Charleston County Probate Judge Irvin Condon has begun taking marriage license applications from same-sex couples and, unless overruled by the courts, will issue the first of those licenses tomorrow due to the state's required 24-hour waiting period.  
Given these recent events coupled with the fact that we are in the midst of a Mandatory Insurance Open Enrollment period, I am asking the City Manager, Human Resources Director and all other relevant staff to immediately begin preparing to offer and extend full family benefits to same-sex couples who possess a valid marriage license from any of the 50 states and the District of Columbia.
I imagine that extending these benefits will have some fiscal impact though I would expect it to be minor. Still, it is better for us to prepare to absorb any additional cost now as waiting until we are forced to do so in the face of this eventuality is simply irresponsible.
Let me be clear. This is no longer a discussion of faith, politics or even law. It is simply a matter of time. But we have an opportunity now to demonstrate leadership, foresight and the responsibility the people of Columbia should expect from their city. We have an opportunity to step forward as One Columbia and I ask that we seize it now.  
Stephen K. Benjamin
Mayor Columbia, SC