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Despite a pending emergency request from the state's Republican leadership to delay the arrival of marriage equality, at least one county in South Carolina is issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, reports Charleston TV station WCSC.
Charleston County Councilwoman Colleen Condon was the first to receive a marriage license Wednesday morning, after she and her partner, Nichols Bleckley, became the first same-sex couple to have their marriage application accepted by a probate judge in Charleston County last month. At least one other same-sex couple who applied for a marriage license last month was also issued such a license today, reports WCSC.
"We knew this was never about just the two of us," Condon told WCSC. "We wanted it for us, but we knew that we were a part of hundreds, thousands in South Carolina who were ready to get married right away."
Kayla Bennett and Kristin Anderson (pictured above), who also applied for a marriage license in early October, received that license Wednesday morning and were formally wed outside the Charleston County Probate Court by minister Tobin Williamson, reports WCSC. The couple became the first same-sex pair to be legally married in South Carolina, notes the local station.
Late Tuesday, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the state's request for a stay, which would have put on hold the November 12 ruling that struck down South Carolina's ban on same-sex marriage. Just hours after the Fourth Circuit announced its decision, Attorney General Alan Wilson asked U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts -- who oversees petitions from the Fourth Circuit -- to grant that stay. Roberts is expected to announce a decision today, and he could grant the stay in its entirety, grant it temporarily as the full court considers the request, or deny it outright. The request for a stay is separate from the state's formal appeal of the pro-equality ruling.
In early October, Charleston County Probate Judge Irvin G. Condon, a distant relative of of Councilwoman Condon, decided to accept marriage applications from same-sex couples after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review a pro-equality decision from the Fourth Circuit regarding same-sex marriage in Virginia. Although that case did not directly involve South Carolina, the state is part of the federal Fourth Circuit, and the pro-equality decision regarding Virginia is legally binding in all states in the circuit.
Several same-sex couples saw their applications accepted before the state Supreme Court ordered Judge Condon to stop accepting such applications on October 9, saying the state's voter-approved ban on marriage equality remained in effect until a federal court found it unconstitutional.
On November 12, U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel did just that, determining that South Carolina's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, approved by voters in 2005, violates the U.S. Constitution's promises of Equal Protection and Due Process.
Judge Gergel's ruling was accompanied by a stay until Thursday, but Tuesday's rejection of the state's request for a stay by the Fourth Circuit could clear the way for same-sex couples to begin marrying statewide by noon Thursday. The Fourth Circuit did give state leadership any extra time to appeal its decision -- or, by extension, Gergel's -- to the U.S. Supreme Court.
With today's marriages, South Carolina becomes the 34th U.S. state (plus the District of Columbia) to allow same-sex couples to legally wed.
Watch WCSC's report below.