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South Carolina files notice it will appeal ruling that overturned gay marriage ban

South Carolina files notice it will appeal ruling that overturned gay marriage ban

COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson has asked a federal appeals court to put on hold a judge’s order allowing gay marriage in the state, warning that not doing so will cause irreparable damage to the state.

South Carolina state capitol in Columbia.
South Carolina state capitol in Columbia.

U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel on Wednesday threw out the state’s constitutional ban on same sex marriage and blocked any state official from enforcing it. But the judge wrote his order would not take effect until noon Nov. 20 so Wilson could appeal.

Wilson asked the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, on Thursday to stay the judge’s order until the entire appeals panel can consider the issue.

In the alternative, if the appeals court doesn’t issue a stay, Wilson asked for time to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The 4th Circuit has already struck down Virginia’s gay marriage ban, a 2-1 ruling that applied to other states in the circuit. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of that case last month and South Carolina remains the only state in the circuit refusing to allow such marriages.

In asking for the stay, Wilson argued the dissenting opinion in the Virginia case was the correct one.

That opinion supports South Carolina’s position that “same-sex marriage restrictions do not discriminate on the basis of sex and that South Carolina’s definition of marriage, dating from colonial times, a union of a man and a woman is supported by rational grounds,” Wilson wrote in his request.

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He warned that without a stay South Carolina will suffer harm because same-sex marriages will go forward only to cause legal confusion about the status of those married if the state prevails.

“At this stage, the injury to the State and its people from allowing marriages to go forward in the interim outweighs any perception of harm to the plaintiffs,” Wilson said. “Although plaintiffs want to get married now, they will get their wish if they ultimately prevail in this appeal.”

Colleen Condon and Nichols Bleckley, who are suing to get married, applied for a same-sex marriage license in Charleston County last month.

But before it could be issued, the state Supreme Court blocked issuing licenses until a federal court in Columbia ruled in another gay marriage challenge. In that case, a couple wants the state to recognize their marriage that was performed in Washington, D.C.

That case is still pending.

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