by Sam Spence
This morning, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a final attempt by Republican S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson to block gay couples in South Carolina from getting married.
The 29-word order posted around 10:15 A.M. constitutes the last avenue for Wilson to appeal the effect of a lower federal judge's ruling last week that threw out the state's constitutional ban on same-sex marriages. That ruling said that gay couples could begin receiving marriage licenses at noon today, but a State Supreme Court order blocking probate judges from taking applications was lifted yesterday afternoon.
Wilson remained resolute in a statement after the order was handed down, maintaining that the Court "has not yet resolved conflicting rulings" by lower appeals courts. In an application for a stay of the ruling to throw out the ban, filed on Tuesday, Wilson argued that Wilson v. Condon differs from previous cases before the Court. Most of the appeal centered around what Wilson called "a fundamental question regarding federalism," whether the federal court could trump the state's right to issue marriage licenses.
"Courts and commentators alike are confused as to whether the issue is jurisdictional or jurisprudential," Wilson said.
Regardless of the new argument, a majority of justices were not convinced by Wilson's appeal, and just two of the seven justices, Scalia and Thomas, were noted as having supported the application for a stay. No further explanation was given.
The ruling today only applied to Wilson's request for postponement, and not the overall ruling throwing out the state ban by federal District Court Judge Richard Gergel earlier this month. Wilson can still appeal on the validity of that case.
The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which would rule on any S.C. appeal, has previously found state bans on gay marriage unconstitutional, while the Sixth District, which covers some Midwestern states, has upheld the bans. As Wilson pointed out in his appeal, the Supreme Court now faces a decision whether to consider the overall question of gay marriage as the two districts remain split on the issue.
If the Court does take up the case, Wilson says his office will continue to fight for the position taken by the Sixth District Court of Appeals, which he says is more in line with S.C. state law, and "upholds the unique status of traditional marriage.”