A federal appeals court on Tuesday rejected an effort by South Carolina's attorney general to block marriages between gay and lesbian couples, setting the stage for another appeal in the state's back-and-forth legal battles over same-sex marriage.
The ruling from the 4th Ciruit Court of Appeals comes less than a week after a U.S. district judge ruled the state's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage violated individual rights to equal protection under the 14th Amendment.
South Carolina Atty. Gen. Alan Wilson had assailed the ruling, saying the state's "unique laws" should have their day in court.
The appeals court denied Wilson's efforts to stay the district court's ruling that cleared the way for same-sex marriages to begin in the state on Nov. 20.
But Wilson said he plans to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
"Today's ruling by the 4th Circuit does not end the constitutional obligation of this office to defend South Carolina law. We continue to believe the doctrine of federalism and the 10th Amendment should allow South Carolina's unique laws to be considered at the highest appropriate court of appeal. We will be seeking an application to the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay shortly," Wilson said in a statement.
The plaintiffs in the case, Colleen Condon and her partner Nichols Bleckley, applied for a marriage license in October. A probate court judge agreed to accept applications but the state supreme court quickly stayed that decision. The U.S. Supreme Court had previously decided not to hear an appeal of a ruling allowing same-sex marriage in Virginia by the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over South Carolina.
Meanwhile, in Kansas on Tuesday, the state's supreme court lifted a hold on marriage licenses to same-sex couples in Johnson County, which is just outside Kansas City. Last week the Supreme Court ended a stay that temporarily prevented the state from issuing same-sex marriage licenses.