S.C. Supreme Court halts same-sex marriages

License applications being accepted in Charleston, Richland Counties

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Originally posted: Oct. 8, 2014, 10:11 a.m.
Updated: Oct. 9, 2014, 12:57 p.m.

The South Carolina Supreme Court has halted all marriage license applications and same-sex marriages in that state, pending a final resolution from federal judges. The order came shortly after Noon on Thursday.

Earlier, Charleston County Probate Judge Irvin G. Condon has ceased issuing marriage licenses at the request of the state Supreme Court. This morning, Condon had issued South Carolina’s first marriage license to a same-sex couple, even as a continued legal fight loomed over the matter.

Charleston County Councilwoman Colleen Condon and her fiancee Nichols Bleckley received their marriage license this morning, after waiting a mandatory 24 hours after submitting their application yesterday. Judge Condon is a distant cousin of the councilwoman.

But, South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson filed a motion before the state Supreme Court late Wednesday afternoon to stop same-sex marriages in at least two counties.

Wilson is asking the court to intervene in potential legal marriages taking place in the state on Thursday. On Wednesday, county probate judges in Charleston and Richland Counties began accepting marriage license applications.

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That stopped in Charleston after Judge Condon received word the state’s high court was considering Wilson’s motion. The Charleston court will continue to take marriage license applications but will not officially issue them until the state Supreme Court has issued a written order.

Judge Condon had said he wouldn’t perform marriages until a final order was issued, but changed his mind on Thursday morning, saying he fully intended to marry Condon and her fiancee and other couples unless stopped by the state Supreme Court or other body.

For her part, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley weighed in with her thoughts on Wednesday, saying it was her job to “protect the constitution.”

“The constitution says marriage is defined between a man and a woman,” Haley said at a press conference. “It’s kind of a mess in the courts right now, so we’re waiting to see what the courts come back with and we’ll proceed accordingly.”

Haley added, “Our job is to uphold the constitution. That is what I’ll continue to do. When the rule of law starts to come in, it’s a different game. … We’re always going to be respectful of the rule of law, but we have to figure out what that is right now.”

Haley also shared her personal views on marriage.

“Michael and I,” she said, referring to her husband, “have always believed that marriage is between a man and a woman, but it’s not about what I believe, it’s about the constitution.”

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The original Oct. 8 story follows below:

A judge in Charleston County, S.C., is to issue South Carolina’s first marriage license to a same-sex couple.

Probate Judge Irvin G. Condon took the license application from Charleston County Councilwoman Colleen Condon — a distant cousin — and her fiancee Nichols Bleckley. The license will officially be granted on Thursday after a mandatory 24-hour waiting period.

Similarly, Richland County Probate Judge Amy McCulloch said she will also accept licenses in her jurisdiction, where the county seat is state capital Columbia.

“I believe it’s time for this to change,” MCulloch said, according to The State. “It’s a fundamental right to be with who you want to be with and have the right married to who you want.”

Colleen Condon told local media it was an “exciting day.”

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“It’s an exciting day for South Carolina to have a marriage license accepted for the first time from a same-sex couple,” Condon told Charleston’s Post and Courier. “We appreciate that Judge Condon can understand the law and follow the law in the state of South Carolina.”

Judge Condon had said yesterday he wouldn’t issue any licenses, because the statewide constitutional ban had yet to be officially lifted and South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson said he planned to continue defending it.

On Wednesday morning, Condon changed his mind, issuing this statement:

“As a result of the actions of the United States Supreme Court on October 6, 2014, the Charleston County Probate Court is required to accept and issue marriage licenses for same sex couples,” read a letter issued Wednesday morning by Judge Condon. “Applications will be accepted beginning today, October 8, 2104, and the Charleston County Probate Court will issue the marriage license after the mandatory 24 hour waiting period unless stayed by the South Carolina Supreme Court or other appropriate court.”

From The Post and Courier:

Colleen Condon said she was unsure if the license would be granted, but her first clue was when she arrived Wednesday morning and looked at the form, which had been changed in part: It no longer read “groom” and “bride” but “Applicant 1” and “Applicant 2.”

“This is not exactly what we were expecting, and we are glad to see it,” she said.

Both Bleckley, 43, and Condon, 44, have been married previously to men, and they met a year and a half ago and got engaged this past Valentines Day. Bleckley said they had ruled out the idea of having a ceremony performed in a state where gay marriage already was legal.

Three applications from same-sex couples were rejected in Greenville County.

“The legal questions surrounding same sex marriage have not yet been settled to a certainty,” read a statement from Greenville County Probate Judge Debora Faulkner. “I am monitoring the situation closely and will act accordingly once the remaining questions have been answered by the 4th Circuit and US Supreme Court. Thank you for your continuing interest in this very important issue.”

An attorney general spokesman, Mark Powell, said his office is reviewing the developments.

“Because the attorney general’s office has ongoing federal litigation, it would be inappropriate to comment on this matter at this time,” Powell said.

Meanwhile, advocates with South Carolina Equality, a statewide LGBT advocacy group, said they are preparing to defend marriage license holders against continued discrimination by the state.

“If your application is rejected, contact the SC Equality Post-DOMA Litigation Task Force immediately at taskforce@scequaliy.org,” reads a Wednesday message from the group to supporters. “The Task Force is prepared to litigate marriage application rejections and to litigate any attempt by the state to thwart holders of marriage licenses from being married. We will be screening potential plaintiffs for that purpose in the coming days.”

THIS IS A DEVELOPING STORY. STAY TUNED FOR UPDATES.
Follow our special coverage updates and see an archive of recent stories…

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Posted by Matt Comer

Matt Comer is a staff writer for QNotes. He previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015.

One Reply to “S.C. Supreme Court halts same-sex marriages”

  1. Yup…..the Fat Lady just sang…..

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