CHARLESTON, S.C. — A couple who applied for, but was not issued a marriage license sued South Carolina on Wednesday in the second federal lawsuit challenging the state's ban on same-sex marriage.
Colleen Condon and Nichols Bleckley, the first couple to apply for a same-sex marriage license in Charleston County on Oct. 8, want a federal judge to declare that the state ban is unconstitutional.
The case is somewhat different from another now before a federal judge in Columbia. In that case, a same-sex couple who married in Washington, D.C., wants South Carolina to recognize their marriage.
Beth Littrell, an attorney for the Lamda Legal, a national civil rights law firm that is assisting Condon and Bleckley in their lawsuit, said the couple simply wants to get married in their home state.
"They should be calling caterers. Instead they are calling lawyers," she said at a news conference.
Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of a decision allowing same-sex marriage in Virginia by a federal appeals court with jurisdiction over South Carolina.
Probate judges in some South Carolina counties began taking applications for same-sex marriage licenses last week before that was put on hold by the state Supreme Court pending the outcome of the federal case in Columbia.
"There is no reason this couple, Colleen and Nichols, should not be getting married," Littrell said.
Mark Powell, a spokesman for state Attorney General Alan Wilson, said Wilson had not yet seen the new lawsuit.
"This case will be decided in a court of law, not in the court of public opinion," Powell said. "Until a decision is rendered in this matter, Attorney General Wilson remains committed to performing his constitutional duty of upholding South Carolina's laws in the courts."
Columbia attorney Malissa Burnett, who represents the South Carolina Equality Coalition, said attorneys for the couple don't want to take any chances that a ruling in the Columbia case, even if for the plaintiffs, might still prevent their clients from marrying in the state.
She said the suit puts the issue squarely before the federal court.
"This isn't a political issue. It isn't a moral issue. It's a legal issue, Condon said. "We have the right to get married. It's time to change. The law is clear and we're going to make sure we push things forward."
She said the couple has heard from hundreds of people through email and Facebook who want to get same-sex marriage licenses.
"We're used to waiting in this state," Bleckley said. Now, "we're tired of waiting."