The state Supreme Court on Wednesday cleared a path for all South Carolina probate judges to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
The court lifted a stay it had put in place last month while a federal judge considered a lawsuit filed against the state’s ban. U.S. District Judge Michelle Childs ruled Tuesday in Bradacs v. Haley that South Carolina must recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. On Wednesday, the justices ended the stay.
“(P)robate judges were directed not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples pending a decision by the Federal District Court in Bradacs,” the order noted. “A decision by Judge Childs resolving the Bradacs case having been rendered, we hereby lift the injunction.”
The state Attorney General’s Office is still asking the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene as it appeals a separate federal judge’s ruling last week that South Carolina’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. The judge in that case had ordered probate courts to issue the licenses starting on Thursday at noon.
Initially, most believed the first available date for marriage licenses would be then. But earlier Wednesday, a probate judge in Charleston County began granting the licenses to same-sex couples. An attorney representing Probate Judge Irvin Condon told the Charleston Post & Courier newspaper that the recent court rulings mean his client must begin granting the licenses as soon as possible.
But Condon stopped after a few hours, saying the South Carolina Court Administration had recommended he halt the process until Thursday or the Supreme Court ruled. Richland County was also allowing couples to apply for licenses early. All other counties had been waiting for Thursday’s deadline.
The lesbian couple who had filed the original lawsuit, Charleston County Councilwoman Colleen Condon (a distant cousin of the judge) and her fiancé Nichols Bleckley, were first in line when the Charleston County probate court opened Wednesday, according to their attorney Malissa Burnette.
“We said, ‘Well, if you can exercise your rights today, then go ahead and do that,’” Burnette told South Carolina Radio Network. “So they got in line and got their marriage license, too.”
While many couples will have to wait 24 hours after applying to get their license, Condon and Bleckley had already applied last month before the Attorney General’s Office intervened. 29 other couples applied with them at the time.