South Carolina judge accepts marriage license application from same-sex couple

Colleen Condon

Nichols Beckley, left and, Colleen Condon after their application for a marriage license was accepted on Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2014 by a probate judge in Charleston. S.C. The couple will receive the license Thursday after a 24-hour waiting period unless the issuance is stayed by the South Carolina Supreme Court or another appropriate court. Bruce Smith, AP

CHARLESTON, S.C. — A South Carolina court approved a same-sex marriage application Wednesday and plans to issue a license despite the state’s constitutional ban against the practice and the attorney general’s pledge to defend it.

Nichols Beckley, left and, Colleen Condon after their application for a marriage license was accepted on Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2014 by a probate judge in Charleston. S.C. The couple will receive the license Thursday after a 24-hour waiting period unless the issuance is stayed by the South Carolina Supreme Court or another appropriate court. Bruce Smith, AP

Nichols Beckley, left and, Colleen Condon after their application for a marriage license was accepted on Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2014 by a probate judge in Charleston. S.C. The couple will receive the license Thursday after a 24-hour waiting period unless the issuance is stayed by the South Carolina Supreme Court or another appropriate court.

Charleston County Probate Judge Irvin Condon said he would issue a license for Charleston County Councilwoman Colleen Condon and her partner Nichols Bleckley after the state’s required 24-hour waiting period unless overruled by the courts.

“It’s not what we were expecting,” said Colleen Condon, a distant relative of the judge who said she had expected the application to be rejected. “It’s an exciting day for South Carolina to have a marriage license application accepted for the first time.”

A small group of reporters gathered at the Charleston County Courthouse as the couple signed the necessary papers.

Colleen Condon, an attorney, noted that while the language on the Charleston County application used to ask for the names of the husband and wife, now it simply asks for the names of the two applicants.

The U.S. Supreme Court decided on Monday not to hear an appeal of a ruling allowing same-sex marriage by a federal appeals court with jurisdiction over South Carolina.

Judge Irvin Condon said in a statement that, that as a result, his court is required to accept and issue marriage licenses.

The couple said they had wanted to wait until same-sex marriages were legal in South Carolina, as opposed to getting married elsewhere, and plan a wedding next year.

Jeff Ayers, the chairman of the board for South Carolina Equality, a gay rights advocacy group, said the organization has more than dozen lawyers preparing to respond if Attorney General Alan Wilson tries to block the Charleston license.

“We thought there would be other Southern states ahead of South Carolina. It’s slow to change. This is mind-boggling,” Ayers said.

Wilson has vowed to keep fighting a case in which a same-sex couple married in Washington, D.C., has asked South Carolina to recognize their union.

U.S. District Judge Michelle Childs has asked state attorneys and lawyers for the couple and to submit briefs by Oct. 15 on how to handle the women’s lawsuit. Wilson spokesman Mark Powell said the attorney general is reviewing the matter.

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

In Richland County, applications for same-sex marriage licenses were also being accepted Wednesday. But Deputy Probate Clerk Kim Lewis said her office won’t issue any licenses until the state Supreme Court rules on whether the Charleston County license application was properly accepted.

Meanwhile, in Greenville, a probate judge rejected three applications for same-sex marriages, but those gathered at the courthouse cheered when they heard of the Charleston decision.

Greenville County Probate Judge Debora Faulkner said no licenses would be issued there because pending court cases could have different results, forcing her to void a license.

“No one wants to think they’re married when they’re not,” she told The Associated Press. She said she is just following the state Constitution ban on same-sex marriages.

One of the clerks who had to reject the applications was crying.

“This puts tears in your eyes,” Elizabeth Robinson said after the last of three couples left.

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