By Harriet McLeod
CHARLESTON S.C (Reuters) - The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declined on Tuesday to stay a district court ruling from last week that struck down South Carolina's gay marriage ban, meaning same-sex weddings could happen there as soon as Thursday.
South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson, a Republican, said in a statement his office would ask the U.S. Supreme Court to stay the district court's ruling.
"This issue has not yet been resolved nationally," he said in a statement.
“Today's ruling by the Fourth Circuit does not end the constitutional obligation of this Office to defend South Carolina law,” Wilson said.
South Carolina would become the 34th state to allow gay marriage if it is allowed to go ahead.
The U.S. Supreme Court rejected a similar stay application last week that was filed by Kansas officials. Like South Carolina, Kansas was bound by a regional appeals court ruling that struck down bans in other states.
That same day, U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel ruled that South Carolina was bound by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision striking down a similar law in Virginia.
Gergel put his ruling on hold for a week to allow the state time to appeal.
Although gay marriage advocates have had the advantage in the courts over the past year, a Cincinnati-based federal appeals court on Nov. 6 became the first to uphold gay marriage bans.
That decision by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals backing four states' bans created a split within the courts, increasing the chances the Supreme Court will rule once and for all on whether states can ban gay marriage.
The high court has so far declined to take up cases that would lead to a definitive ruling on gay marriage, allowing gay marriage to proceed in five states when it refused to hear appeals in seven cases in October.
Colleen Condon, a plaintiff in the South Carolina case who was denied a marriage license in Charleston last month, said in a statement on Tuesday that she and her fiancée were looking forward to tying the knot.
"We are ecstatic as we get ready to go pick up our license at noon on Thursday," Condon said.
(Additional reporting by Lawrence Hurley, Jonathan Kaminsky and Letitia Stein; Writing by David Adams; Editing by Sandra Maler and Peter Cooney)