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1st same-sex marriage licenses issued in South Carolina

Bruce Smith
Associated Press

Charleston, S.C. — A judge issued the first gay marriage licenses 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 handed out six licenses in the first 90 minutes the Charleston County Probate Court office was open. One of those was given to Colleen Condon and her partner Nichols Bleckley, who sued in federal court in to be married.

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 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 in the state, Wilson’s spokesman Mark Powell said.

The Supreme Court didn’t 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 ruled in Columbia 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 remained 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.

“My advice to Judge Condon was if someone had an application and had paid their fee and 24 hours has passed, they are entitled to a license under state law and under federal law,” Nichols said.

Powell said the attorney general is reviewing Child’s order.