Probate courts in York, Chester and Lancaster counties are poised to start accepting applications and issuing same-sex marriage licenses as early as 8 a.m. Thursday, probate judges said Wednesday afternoon, after federal court rulings made same-sex marriage legal as of noon Thursday.
S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson said he is appealing the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, but it is unclear when, or if, the nation’s highest court will act on the appeal.
Previous federal court rulings say state law banning same-sex marriage is unconstitutional and that at noon Thursday same-sex couples can begin filing for South Carolina marriage licenses.
The S.C. Supreme Court on Wednesday issued an order that vacates the injunction it had in place since Oct. 9 that banned probate courts from accepting same-sex marriage applications.
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Carolyn Rogers, probate judge for York County, said Wednesday after seeing the order lifting the ban that her office will start taking applications when the office opens at 8 a.m., provided nothing changes with any appeals.
Court officials in Lancaster County said the office also is going to accept applications at 8 a.m., Thursday.
Chester County probate officials are set to accept applications at 12:01 p.m. Thursday.
“If nothing has changed, as of noon Thursday we will be issuing those licenses,” said Judge Lois Roddey, Chester County probate judge.
Clerks at the Lancaster County Probate Court said Wednesday that Judge Sandra Estridge has instructed them to issue the licenses starting at 8 a.m. Thursday, provided nothing changes in any appeals.
The state association of probate judges has asked the state’s court administration to send all counties directives as soon as any are available, Rogers said, but as of late Wednesday she had received no word on a statewide policy.
Licenses issued Thursday would allow same-sex couples to marry after a 24-hour waiting period required under state law, Roddey said. That means as early as Friday, same-sex couples in York, Chester and Lancaster counties could be legally married if applications are approved.
Charleston County’s probate judge issued same-sex licenses Wednesday.
That decision follows two federal court developments on Tuesday. The 4th Circuit Court in Richmond rejected Wilson’s appeal for an injunction of last week’s ruling that gay couples in South Carolina must be able to wed. The 4th Circuit had previously struck down Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban, causing other states in the South Atlantic region to begin issuing marriage licenses.
Wilson has vowed to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court for an immediate injunction of Federal Judge Richard Gergel’s ruling.
Also on Tuesday, a federal judge in Columbia ruled that the state must recognize the out-of-state marriage of a lesbian couple living in Lexington.