Federal Judge Strikes Down South Carolina's Ban on Gay Marriage

 / Updated 
Image: Activists celebrate two decisions by the US Supreme Court seen as victories for gay marriage
File photo of activists celebrating two decisions by the US Supreme Court seen as victories for gay marriage.David Poller / Zuma Press, file

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A federal judge has struck down South Carolina's ban on same-sex marriage. In a decision issued Wednesday, U.S. Circuit Court Judge Richard Mark Gergel ruled against the state constitutional amendment prohibiting gays and lesbians from tying the knot, NBC affiliate WIS reported. But the judge issued a stay on the ruling until Nov. 20 at noon to give the state time to appeal — which means the ban will stay in place until that time, according to the station.

The U.S. Supreme Court in October declined to hear an appeal of a 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision allowing same-sex marriage in Virginia, an action that cleared the way for same-sex marriages in other states in the 4th Circuit. South Carolina has been the only remaining holdout in the circuit.

The chance that the highest court in the land will decide the issue of same-sex marriage grew stronger last week after a federal appeals court upheld bans on marriage for gay couples in four states — Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.

— Pete Williams and Daniel Arkin

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