- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 8, 2014

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) - A South Carolina court approved same-sex marriage applications Wednesday, but the state’s attorney general was asking the Supreme Court to refuse to grant the licenses before the day was over.

For gay marriage supporters, the legal wrangling was a disappointing end to a day of surprises. A rally Wednesday that was planned to put pressure on the state to overturn its constitutional ban on gay marriages instead turned into a celebration after the stunning decision by Charleston County Probate Judge Irvin Condon.

The judge issued a license for Charleston County Councilwoman Colleen Condon and her partner Nichols Bleckley and at least 14 more for same-sex couples throughout the day. But state law requires all couples to wait 24 hours after applying to get their marriage license.

Wilson’s office filed its paperwork just minutes before the state Supreme Court closed at 5 p.m. They are asking justices to rule before the 24-hour window closes Thursday morning. The justices gave no indication when they might rule.

In their filing, attorneys for the state said the probate judge’s decision was premature. The attorneys said the legal issues around whether same-sex marriage is legal in South Carolina remain unsettled. They cited a Wednesday decision by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy temporarily blocking gay marriage in Idaho. They also cited a pending South Carolina case that had been put on hold before the nation’s high court decided Monday not to hear an appeal of a ruling allowing same-sex marriage by a federal appeals court with jurisdiction over South Carolina.

The granting of the licenses led to confusion and celebration across the state. Most probate court judges turned away same-sex couples until the issue could be settled. Still, some same-sex couples headed to Charleston County, figuring even if the justices rule in Wilson’s favor, same-sex marriage is coming to South Carolina soon.

That included Colleen Condon, a distant relative of the judge, who said she had expected her application to be rejected, but instead made history as part of the first same-sex couple to be approved for a marriage license.

The couple said they had wanted to wait until same-sex marriages were legal in South Carolina, and plan a wedding ceremony next year.

“We want a traditional wedding. We’re Southern girls. We want our family all around us,” Colleen Condon said.

A small group of reporters gathered at the Charleston County Courthouse as the couple signed the paperwork.

Colleen Condon, an attorney, noted that while the language on the Charleston County application used to ask for the names of the husband and wife, now it simply asks for the names of the two applicants.

But even as he accepted the application, Judge Condon appeared to know he might not have the final word. He said in a written statement he would issue the license as long as the state Supreme Court approved.

Gov. Nikki Haley said she believes marriage should only be between a man and a woman and she took an oath to uphold the state constitution. South Carolina voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2006 banning same-sex unions. Haley said the courts have left the issue a mess.

“We have to figure out what that is right now. That’s the big question of the day for everyone in South Carolina. Where does the rule of law stand after this and where does that leave South Carolina?” she said.

Jeff Ayers chairs the board for South Carolina Equality, a gay rights advocacy group. He said the organization has more than dozen lawyers preparing to respond to Wilson if he does fight the Charleston decision.

“We thought there would be other Southern states ahead of South Carolina. It’s slow to change. This is mind-boggling,” Ayers said.

In Richland County, applications for same-sex marriage licenses were also being accepted Wednesday. But Deputy Probate Clerk Kim Lewis said her office won’t issue any licenses until the Charleston decision is finalized.

Meanwhile, in Greenville County, Probate Judge Debora Faulkner said no licenses would be issued there because pending court cases could have different results, forcing her to void a license.

“No one wants to think they’re married when they’re not,” she said. She said she is just following the state Constitution.

One of the clerks who had to reject the applications was crying.

“This puts tears in your eyes,” Elizabeth Robinson said after the last of three couples left.

_____

Associated Press writers Mitch Weiss in Greenville and Jeffery Collins in Columbia contributed to this report.

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