Self-styled “Independent Republican” Tom Ervin – a petition candidate for governor of South Carolina – is the latest candidate for elected office in the socially conservative Palmetto State to weigh in on the same sex marriage issue.

“Government does not belong in the bedroom,” the former judge and lawmaker from the Upstate said.  “My personal faith affirms that marriage is between a man and a woman but under our Constitution, people in this country are afforded equal protection under our laws.  This means that anyone should be free to marry the person they love. Government should not be in the bedroom, but it should also not be in the church.  Individual churches should be allowed to decide which marriage ceremonies they want to perform.”

We agree … and have argued as much for years.

“Marriage – as we’ve noted ad nauseam  in the past – ought to be the exclusive purview of local congregations,” we wrote last spring. “Gay or straight – in no instance should government (federal, state or local) ban congregations from marrying whomever they want. But similarly in no instance should government (federal, state or local) compel these congregations to marry couples against their will.  In other words, government should have nothing whatsoever to do with marriage .

In addition to stating his views on the subject, Ervin followed another petition candidate – Thomas Ravenel – in urging the state to suspend any further legal defense of South Carolina’s 2006 gay marriage ban.

In light of this week’s decision by the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to strike down Virginia’s gay marriage ban, Ervin said such a defense would be “a waste of taxpayer dollars.”

Again, we agree …

S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley offered a tepid defense of the state’s gay marriage ban – which passed in 2006 via a constitutional amendment with nearly 80 percent of the public supporting it.

More recent polls show 52.2 percent of South Carolinians opposing gay marriage compared to 38.5 percent who support it.

“This administration will continue to uphold the will of the people,” Haley’s office said in a statement responding to the ruling. “Ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court will decide this issue, and until that time, South Carolina will continue to be governed by the laws of our state.”

Democrat Vincent Sheheen enraged gay voters by refusing to take a position on the issue, trotting out his spokesman to say the campaign would “monitor the court’s proceedings as the process continues to move forward.”

“Vincent Sheheen has once again shown the LGBT citizens of South Carolina that he doesn’t care about getting their votes,” columnist Chris Haire of The (Charleston, S.C.) City Paper  wrote.  “What a coward. But more importantly, what an idiot.”

According to Haire, Sheheen is blind to “demographic shifts in South Carolina and across the nation.”

“If the rise of more libertarian-leaning politicians and political activists in the Palmetto State doesn’t signal a shift to social liberalism, I don’t know what else does,” Haire noted.

We agree …

Independent candidates like Ravenel and Ervin are on the right side of this issue … ideologically and politically.