Gay marriage advocates get victories in Kansas, South Carolina

Wed Nov 12, 2014 6:03pm EST
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By Harriet McLeod and Lawrence Hurley

CHARLESTON S.C./WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Gay marriage advocates won another two victories on Wednesday as the U.S. Supreme Court allowed Kansas to become the 33rd U.S. state where same-sex couples can wed and a federal judge struck down South Carolina's ban.

The high court declined a request from Kansas officials to block U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Crabtree's Nov. 4 ruling that struck down the state's gay marriage ban as a violation of the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of equal protection under the law.

Two of the nine justices, conservatives Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, said in the brief court order they would have granted the stay.

In Charleston, U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel ruled that South Carolina is bound by an earlier regional federal appeals court decision that struck down Virginia's similar law. Gergel said his decision will not take effect for one week to allow South Carolina time to appeal.

That could allow same-sex couples to file for marriage licenses or in some cases begin receiving them starting on Nov. 20 if the state is unable to obtain a further delay via the courts.

"We're ecstatic," said Colleen Condon, 44, who filed the lawsuit heard by Gergel after she and fiancée Nichols Bleckley, 43, were denied a marriage license in Charleston last month.

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson, a Republican, said he would appeal Wednesday's ruling.

"We believe this office has an obligation to defend state law as long as we have a viable path to do so," Wilson said.   Continued...

Kathy Stewart (R) places a ring on the finger of her partner, Vicky Mangus (L), during a wedding ceremony outside of the Mecklenburg County Register of Deeds office in Charlotte, North Carolina, October 13, 2014. REUTERS/Davis Turner