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A federal court on Tuesday rejected South Carolina’s bid to temporarily delay same-sex marriages in the southern state — a decision that could allow gay and lesbian couples to wed later this week.
The 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals issued an order denying the state’s request to stay the marriages pending appeal. The state’s attorney general, Alan Wilson, said he would take an appeal to the Supreme Court.
“This issue has not yet been resolved nationally. It is still likely the U.S. Supreme Court will address conflicting rulings between federal circuit courts of appeal,” Wilson said in a statement. “Therefore, today's ruling by the Fourth Circuit does not end the constitutional obligation of this office to defend South Carolina law.”
Lambda Legal hailed the court’s decision and said gay couples could wed starting Thursday.
"The end game is clear - marriage will soon be available for same-sex couples in South Carolina. This is a great victory for same-sex couples and their families because it removes one more hurdle to finally walking down the aisle," Beth Littrell, a senior attorney for the group, said in a statement.
The decision comes nearly two weeks after the 6th Circuit federal court upheld gay marriage bans in Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee. It was the first federal appeals court to do so — three others have struck down such prohibitions — posing a legal conflict that experts believe will force the Supreme Court to make a definitive ruling on gay marriage.
The nation’s top justices declined to hear appeals from those three circuits in October, allowing the rulings favoring gay marriage to stand in the states covered by those courts – including South Carolina.