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Marriage Equality

No Stay in South Carolina; Marriages Could Begin Thursday

No Stay in South Carolina; Marriages Could Begin Thursday


Antigay state officials have Chief Justice John Roberts as their last hope to stop same-sex marriage.

Same-sex marriages will move ahead in South Carolina starting Thursday, unless the state's attorney general is successful in his last-ditch appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals today refused to stay a lower court ruling from November 12 that struck down South Carolina's marriage ban, and it didn't even give extra time for state officials to appeal to the Supreme Court. With his ruling earlier this month, District Court Judge Richard Gergel gave South Carolina officials only until Thursday before his decision to strike down the marriage ban goes into effect.

State attorney general Alan Wilson and governor Nikki Haley, both Republicans, had defiantly pledged a fight to stop same-sex marriages but now only have the Supreme Court to look to for help in that cause. Chief Justice John Roberts is responsible for considering requests from this jurisdiction.

That the Fourth Circuit denied a stay shouldn't have come as a complete surprise to state officials. The court had already ruled in favor of marriage equality in a case from Virginia, and that ruling had also been appealed by marriage opponents to the U.S. Supreme Court, which denied a chance to take it up and marriages began in Virginia.

In fact, after the Supreme Court let the Virginia ruling stand, a county probate judge began accepting marriage licenses in South Carolina and cited it as precedent, since Virginia and South Carolina share the same federal jurisdiction. South Carolina is the only state in the Fourth Circuit that hasn't started marrying same-sex couples, with Virginia, West Virginia, and North Carolina all following legal precedent, and Maryland having voted for marriage equality.

In other positive legal news for South Carolina activists today, a U.S. District Court judge ruled that same-sex marriages performed out-of-state must be recognized.

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