- Associated Press - Friday, June 26, 2015

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling Friday that legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states officially ended South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson’s defense of the state’s constitutional ban on gay marriage.

Wilson said the high court’s 5-4 ruling delivered a “devastating blow” to states’ rights under the Tenth Amendment.

“Unfortunately, this decision empowers federal judges to rewrite any law and overturn any vote of the people,” he said.

The high court’s ruling affected 14 states that now must stop enforcing their ban.

“We assumed that South Carolina would be the last state. It feels good that we weren’t at the end of the line this time,” said Susie Prueter with the Alliance for Full Acceptance in Charleston.

The first gay marriage licenses in South Carolina were issued Nov. 19, following a decision by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. State government agencies have been recognizing gay marriages since then.

But Wilson, a Republican who had just won re-election, vowed then to keep fighting. The only attorney general in the judicial circuit to do so, Wilson called it his duty to defend the state ban approved by voters in 2006.

State Democratic Party Chairman Jaime Harrison said the ruling means “love wins.”

“The Supreme Court ruled that love is love and that marriage is a right for all our brothers and sisters, friends and neighbors, everyone,” he said.

The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina issued a statement Friday making clear its churches will not perform same-sex weddings.

“While the Supreme Court may be changing the civil definition of marriage, it has no authority over holy matrimony and the church’s blessing of the union between husband and wife,” it read.

It’s unclear how many same-sex marriage licenses have been issued statewide over the last seven months.

In Charleston County, home to a city that’s a top tourist and wedding destination, 219 same-sex marriage licenses have been issued, according to that county’s probate court office. It was the first court to issue same-sex licenses. Other county probate courts contacted Friday said they don’t track that information.

On Nov. 20, the state’s Public Employee Benefit Authority notified public employees that benefits - health, dental, vision and life insurance - were being extended to the spouses and children of same-sex couples. An agency spokeswoman said Friday it could not be immediately determined how many additional people have been enrolled as a result.

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