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Judge overturns same-sex marriage ban in South Carolina

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A U.S. judge on Wednesday ordered South Carolina officials to stop enforcing a ban on same-sex marriage, ruling the state is bound by a regional federal appeals court decision that struck down Virginia’s ban.

U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel in Charleston, South Carolina, said his decision will not take effect for one week to allow the state time to appeal. That could allow gays and lesbians to file for marriage in the state starting at noon EST on Nov. 20, depending on the legal process.

In his ruling, Gergel said he found no meaningful distinction between South Carolina’s ban on same-sex marriage and the ban declared unconstitutional in Virginia, adding that the state’s ban violated the Constitution’s due process and equal protection clauses.

South Carolina is the only one of five states covered by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that has refused to permit gays to marry despite action by the U.S. Supreme Court. The top court’s decision in October allowed same-sex marriage to proceed in five new states and paved the way for bans against such unions to fall in others.

The earlier decision in Virginia set precedent for South Carolina and “establishes, without question, the right of plaintiffs to marry as same-sex partners,” Gergel said.

The case before Gergel was brought by a lesbian couple whose efforts to get a marriage license in Charleston last month were blocked by the South Carolina Supreme Court.

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A judge had told Charleston County Councilwoman Colleen Condon and her fiancée Nichols Bleckley that he would issue their marriage license after a mandatory 24-hour waiting period. But state Attorney General Alan Wilson asked the state’s Supreme Court to block the license in light of South Carolina’s voter-approved ban.

Condon and Bleckley could not be immediately reached for comment on the ruling. Representatives for Wilson also did not immediately reply to a request seeking comment.

(Reporting by Harriet McLeod; Writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Susan Heavey)

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Christian university president quits after massive backlash over inviting Mike Pence

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Vice President Mike Pence's role in toxic administrations caused such a backlash that a Christian university is now searching for a new president.

"Taylor University President Paul Lowell Haines has resigned from the nondenominational Christian university a month after hosting Vice President Mike Pence as commencement speaker," Religious News Service reported Monday.

Students and alumni had protested the invitation.

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Student debt a ‘life sentence’ for millions of Americans

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Haley Walters is five years away from earning her law degree. If everything goes according to plan, she will be under a mountain of $100,000 in student debt by the time she enters the work force.

Like millions of Americans, Walters is paying a steep price for an education that will likely weigh her down financially for much of her adult life.

"I think the student debt crisis is truly a life sentence," the 19-year-old Californian told AFP.

With 45 million borrowers owing some $1.6 trillion, the debt burden of American college graduates has exploded in recent years.

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Florida library forced to cancel ‘Pride Prom’ after death threat sparks fear for teens’ safety

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A Jacksonville, Florida library worked to hold a prom for LGBTQ teens who feel uncomfortable about going to their high school prom as they are or with the person they truly want to bring. That's why they started the Pride Prom. But after fears for the safety for the teens, the library had to cancel.

According to WOKV, the prom was supposed to be this Friday, with a Storybook theme where attendees were encouraged to dress up as their favorite storybook character. There would be music, dancing, a selfie station and more. All of that is over now, however.

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