1st gay marriage licenses issued in South Carolina

AP News
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Posted: Nov 19, 2014 2:05 PM
1st gay marriage licenses issued in South Carolina

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — A judge issued the first gay marriage licenses and a couple was married in South Carolina on Wednesday, even as the state attorney general asked the U.S. Supreme Court to step in and block the unions.

Judge Irvin Condon's office issued six licenses in the first 90 minutes the Charleston County Probate Court office was open and one of the couples, Kristin Anderson and Kayla Bennett, exchanged vows outside the office.

"We want to get in before they change their minds and pull the rug out again," Anderson told local media outlets, referring to the ongoing legal battles over gay marriage.

Before Wednesday, same-sex couples could marry in 32 states, parts of Kansas and Missouri, and the District of Columbia.

Another marriage license went to Colleen Condon and her partner Nichols Bleckley, who sued the state. Ruling in that case, U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel last week threw out the same-sex marriage ban in the South Carolina Constitution.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals refused on Tuesday to put Gergel's order on hold. South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson then asked Chief Justice John Roberts of the U.S. Supreme Court to block such marriages while the state appeals, Wilson's spokesman Mark Powell said. The Supreme Court did not immediately rule on the request.

Attorney John Nichols, representing the probate judge, said the licenses could be issued because of a Tuesday decision in another federal case.

There, U.S. District Judge J. Michelle Childs in Columbia ruled in favor of Highway Patrol Trooper Katherine Bradacs and U.S. Air Force retiree Tracie Goodwin, who sued to have the state to recognize their marriage performed in Washington, D.C.

Childs ruled the state's failure to recognize their marriage was unconstitutional.

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of a 4th Circuit decision allowing same-sex marriage in Virginia, opening the way for same-sex marriages in other states. South Carolina continued to defend its same-sex marriage ban and was the only state in the circuit not permitting them.

At that time, probate judges in two South Carolina counties began accepting applications for same-sex marriage licenses. The South Carolina Supreme Court quickly ordered that no licenses be issued before a decision in the Columbia case.

Now that decision has been made, Nichols said.

Powell said the attorney general is reviewing Childs' order.

The probate judge in Richland County, the other county accepting gay marriage applications, said she would wait on the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on the attorney general's request for an emergency stay.

"I would like resolution to that so I can freely issue these licenses and not feel all worried I have done something that puts somebody in a questionable category," Probate Judge Amy McCulloch said.

Warren Redman-Gress, the executive director of the Alliance for Full Acceptance, said a gay couple married in New York applied Wednesday in Charleston to use their married name on their drivers' licenses and were turned down.

"I think people are going to keep seeing those things happening," he said. "This has ramifications for all different parts of the state."