U.S. Supreme Court decision paves way for same-sex marriage in SC

U.S. Supreme Court decision paves way for same-sex marriage in SC

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - In a 7-2 decision, the United States Supreme Court decided to not issue an emergency stay in the ongoing political drama surrounding same-sex marriage, paving the way for the marriages to begin in the Palmetto State Thursday.

With that decision, South Carolina becomes the 35th state in the United States to allow same-sex couples to marry.

In a brief statement, seven of the nine Supreme Court justices denied the stay, but Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Justice Clarence Thomas said they would hear it.

Thursday's decision means there is very little left for Attorney General Alan Wilson to do to stop marriages from beginning at noon.

The attorney general's office released a statement shortly after the decision came down, saying that despite Thursday's ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court has not resolved conflicting rulings by other federal appeals courts.

"When the U.S. Supreme Court. decides to consider the case, our office will be supporting the position of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which is more consistent with South Carolina State law, which upholds the unique status of traditional marriage," the statement said.

Same-sex marriage supporters celebrated the high court's decision.

"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. This decision clears away the last obstacle to marriage equality in the state," attorney Beth Littrell said. "We congratulate all the happy couples as South Carolina becomes the 35th state where same-sex couples can marry."

U.S. District Court Judge Richard Gergel, who ruled the state's ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional late last week.

After the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals refused to issue an emergency stay on Gergel's ruling on Tuesday, Attorney General Alan Wilson said he would appeal to the high court.

Wilson filed that 38-page appeal Wednesday and said the state had the duty to define marriage -- not the federal government. Wilson argues that even the Supreme Court made a similar ruling when it struck down the Defense of Marriage Act last year.

That court decision was considered to be a major victory for supporters of same-sex marriage because so many state marriage bans were based on the federal law.

The Supreme Court has not said whether or not it will hear any cases on the matter, but Wilson says he'll support the 6th Circuit Court's decision that upheld state marriage bans in other parts of the country.

However, when we spoke to the Supreme Courts's public information office Thursday morning, they said there were no other requests or appeals regarding this case on their end.

While Wilson's stay was denied, his appeal remains in limbo.

"We're in contact with the government agencies right now," Wilson said.

"That appeal will still be considered by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, and that's a longer process," Malissa Burnette with SC Equality said.

But, Burnette believes the fact no stay was issued, marriages have already taken place, and the 4th Circuit denied the appeal on Bostic v. Schafer, the case which struck down marriage bans within the cluster of states under the court, is a clear indicator of how the courts will rule.

In the meantime, SC Equality has set up a hotline for couples with questions on the process.

"Got a lot of lawyers to volunteer to help folks going to the DMV or to the probate courts if they run into glitches," Burnette said.

Copyright 2014 WIS. All rights reserved.