by Paul Bowers
UPDATE: Thursday morning, the state Supreme Court ordered all county probate judges not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples until a federal judge rules on the constitutionality of South Carolina's ban on gay marriages. Attorney General Alan Wilson issued the following statement on the ruling:
Today's action by the state Supreme Court upholds the rule of law in South Carolina. Based on the Court's decision, I will continue to fulfill my oath as chief legal officer to defend the laws and the Constitution of South Carolina until this issue is resolved by the federal courts.---
After a Charleston County judge began accepting marriage license applications from same-sex couples Wednesday morning, S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson filed a petition Wednesday afternoon with the state Supreme Court asking for an injunction on the issuing of marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
In his petition, Wilson writes that the respondent, Charleston County Probate Judge Irvin G. Condon, should wait until a court decides the constitutionality of South Carolina's same-sex marriage ban.
"It is entirely premature for Respondent to begin issuing marriage licenses today," Wilson writes in his petition to the Supreme Court. "We urge this Court, therefore, to allow the legal process to run its course before any licenses in South Carolina are issued." Wilson's petition has not been placed on the Thursday docket for the state Supreme Court. (Read the full petition below.)
Colleen Condon and her fiancée Nichols Bleckley, whose marriage application was accepted in Judge Condon's court Wednesday morning, say their license has not been granted following a mandatory 24-hour waiting period. Judge Condon (who Colleen Condon says is her third cousin) issued the following statement Thursday morning:
"The S.C. Supreme Court is actively considering the action, The State of South Carolina ex rel Alan Wilson, Attorney General v. Irvin G. Condon, in his capacity as Judge of Probate Charleston County, and has requested the Charleston County Probate Court to refrain from releasing same-sex marriage licenses until the S.C. Supreme Court has fully considered the action and issued a written order. The Charleston County Probate Court will accept applications but will not release same-sex marriage licenses until the S.C. Supreme Court has issued a written order."
Wilson's petition came after a day in which probate judges around the state issued conflicting statements about whether they would grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples. After the U.S. Supreme Court decided Monday to deny a petition in the Virginia case Bostic v. Schaefer, effectively overturning Virginia's ban on gay marriage, Judge Condon announced Wednesday morning that his court would accept applications and issue licenses after the state-required 24-hour waiting period. Meanwhile, in Richland County, a probate judge began accepting applications but said she would not issue licenses until a court ruled on the constitutionality of South Carolina's ban. In Greenville County and some other counties across the state, judges continued to turn away all same-sex applicants.
While other states' attorneys general have refused to defend similar bans, Wilson has said he will continue to defend South Carolina's Amendment 1, which passed a referendum with 78 percent of the vote in 2006 and says that the state will only recognize unions "between one man and one woman." The amendment's constitutionality is being challenged in the case Bradacs v. Haley, in which a state Highway Patrol trooper is seeking state recognition of her marriage to a woman that was carried out in Washington D.C.
Wilson writes in his petition that the S.C. Supreme Court should place an injunction on the issuing of marriage licenses to same-sex couples until U.S. District Judge J. Michelle Childs issues a ruling on Bradacs. Childs had previously placed a stay on the case pending a decision in Bostic, but now she has lifted the stay and asked the parties to submit a proposed scheduling order or briefing by Wed. Oct. 15