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U.S. Supreme Court refuses to block same-sex marriages in South Carolina

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Updated: 12:10 p.m. EST

CHARLESTON, S.C. — The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday refused to block gay marriages in South Carolina but Attorney General Alan Wilson said the issue is still not settled.

The court denied Wilson’s request to prevent the marriages while he appeals last week’s decision by a federal judge tossing out the state constitutional ban on gay marriage.

On Wednesday, a Charleston judge issued the first gay marriage licenses in the state and a lesbian couple exchanged vows on the courthouse steps.

The U.S. Supreme Court order said only Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas were in favor of granting Wilson a stay.

“The order from the U.S. Supreme Court officially puts an end to the long fight for access to marriage for South Carolina’s same-sex couples and their families,” said Beth Littrell, an attorney for Lamda Legal, a national civil rights law firm that assisted the plaintiffs in a Charleston case.

Wilson said in a statement the issue is not over.

“Despite today’s refusal to grant our motion, the U.S. Supreme Court has not yet resolved conflicting rulings by federal appeals courts on the issue,” he said.

While a 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision cleared the way for gay marriages in the circuit that includes South Carolina, Wilson has argued a decision by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upholding gay marriage bans in several Midwest states means the matter will likely go to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Our office will be supporting the position of the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, which is more consistent with South Carolina state law, which upholds the unique status of traditional marriage,” Wilson said.

Kristin Anderson and her partner Kayla Bennett were the first gay couple married in the state. Anderson said Thursday that she doesn’t expect any future court decisions to affect her marriage status.

“I think the way things have gone that eventually, whether it’s sooner or later, there will be no question it will be legal,” she said.

South Carolina is one of nearly three dozen states where gay marriages have taken place. In Montana on Wednesday, a federal judge ruled that state’s ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional.

The situation in South Carolina has been murky because of rulings in different lawsuits. U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel ruled that marriages could begin this week and in a separate case, a federal judge found that the state’s refusal to recognize gay marriages performed in other states is unconstitutional.

Charleston County Probate Judge Irvin Condon began issuing licenses Wednesday, and the South Carolina Supreme Court soon allowed probate judges statewide to issue same-sex licenses.

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