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CHARLESTON S.C. (Reuters) - The South Carolina Supreme Court ordered state judges on Thursday not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples until a federal court rules on whether the state can continue enforcing its ban on such marriages.
The state Supreme Court's instruction came after Charleston County Probate Judge Irvin Condon accepted marriage license applications from 19 gay couples on Wednesday.
Condon had indicated he would begin issuing the documents after the state's mandatory 24-hour waiting period for marriage licenses, citing U.S. Supreme Court action this week that ended bans on same-sex marriages in five other states including Virginia.
South Carolina is bound by the same regional federal appeals court ruling that struck down Virginia's ban. So is North Carolina, where gay couples on Thursday anticipated that federal judges would strike down its same-sex marriage ban.
Elsewhere, efforts to block an appeals court ruling that allowed gay marriage to go into effect in Nevada appeared to be at an end. Gay marriage opponents filed papers with both the U.S. Supreme Court and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals withdrawing stay requests they had filed on Wednesday.
Litigation over Idaho's ban, which was struck down as part of the same appeals court ruling, was set to continue. In the meantime, marriages will not go ahead in that state.
South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson, a Republican, asked the state Supreme Court to block Condon from issuing licenses, arguing a U.S. district court judge had yet to determine whether the state's voter-approved ban was legal.
Justices said they agreed the issue should be resolved by the district court that is hearing a pending challenge of the ban.
Earlier on Thursday, Condon said he would refrain from releasing the licenses in light of a request by the state Supreme Court but would continue to accept applications.
Some of the gay couples gathered at the Charleston courthouse on Thursday said they were disappointed by the delay but remained confident they would soon be granted the right to marry in the state.
"It's making history in South Carolina that applications are even being accepted," said Jennifer Rose, 28, who was seeking a marriage license with her fiancée, Sara Meadows, also 28.
The probate court in Richland County, South Carolina also was accepting applications from gay couples, said marriage license supervisor Meria Foster.
Additional reporting by Lawrwence Hurley in Washington; Writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Will Dunham