State Attorney General Alan Wilson on Wednesday asked the South Carolina Supreme Court to stop a probate court in Charleston County from granting marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
The court filing came the same day that Charleston County Probate Judge Irvin Condon announced his court would allow gay couples to apply for and receive their licenses. At least 15 couples have already filed for the license in Charleston County, according to the Associated Press. Judge Condon said his office was “required to accept and issue marriage licenses” following a Supreme Court decision on Monday. The Supreme Court had decided it would not hear arguments from a 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling (whose jurisdiction includes South Carolina) that a similar Virginia ban was unconstitutional.
While South Carolina’s own law has not been ruled unconstitutional, legal observers believe it is only a matter of time now that the 4th Circuit has gone against another state in the same jurisdiction.
State law requires any couple applying for a marriage license to wait 24 hours before receiving it. Wilson’s filings ask the court to prevent those licenses from being issued until a lawsuit against South Carolina’s own ban is decided. A federal judge has requested briefs in that case from the state and the Lexington County lesbian couple who filed the original suit. In the filing, the Attorney General’s Office called Condon’s decision “entirely premature.”
Wilson and Condon are both Republicans. Democratic probate judges in Richland and Colleton counties have also said they will allow same-sex couples to apply for a license, but indicated they would wait until courts have decided the issue before granting them. No other county has said it will allow gay or lesbian couples to file at this time.
Meanwhile, the LGBT rights group SC Equality submitted a 5,000-signature petition to Wilson’s office on Wednesday asking him to drop his continued defense of the state’s ban.
“They’re doing nothing more than delaying the inevitable, that this fight is over,” SC Equality board chairman Jeff Ayers said moments before delivering the petition. “We have won. They have lost.”
A spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office said he could not comment on pending litigation.
Judge Condon announced he would accept license applications from same-sex couples beginning Wednesday morning. His announcement came shortly after Charleston County Councilwoman Colleen Condon (a distant cousin of the judge) walked into Charleston County’s Marriage License Office with her partner Nichols Bleckley. The councilwoman said she had called the probate office beforehand, but had not been expecting them to grant the license.
“When we went in, we weren’t sure if they were going to take the application or not,” she said. “So we were pleased that they accepted it.”
During an appearance at a ribbon-cutting in Goose Creek, Gov. Nikki Haley said she would accept whatever decision the courts reach on the issue.
“The (state) constitution says that marriage is defined between a man and a woman,” she replied. “It’s kind of a mess in the courts right now, so we’re waiting to see what the courts come back with and then we’ll proceed accordingly.”