In today's paper: Being gay in Charleston

Tasha Gandy (left) and Amanda Hollinger, North Charleston residents, were married last weekend in New York City. “It wasn’t a logical decision because we know rights didn’t extend to South Carolina,” Hollinger said. But the pair love New York and wanted to be “part of history,” they said.

Amanda Hollinger and Tasha Gandy just got married.

They eloped to New York City on July 24 and appeared before one of many volunteer judges recruited for New York’s first day of sanctioning same-sex marriage.

“There were throngs,” said Hollinger, who works at the Trident Tech Foundation.

“It was very festive,” said Gandy, finance director for Spoleto Festival USA. “People were handing out lollipops, sodas, water. They were cheering. It was like a big street party.”

They saw only one mild-mannered protester holding a sign saying, “Bad idea.”

“It wasn’t a logical decision because we know rights didn’t extend to South Carolina,” Hollinger said. But they wanted to be part of history.

When they walked into a restaurant soon after the ceremony, wearing T-shirts that read “Just Married,” people started cheering, they said. At their hotel, they received chocolate-covered strawberries. They got a room upgrade and bottles of champagne.

“It has been a little bit like a dream being here,” Gandy said.

But acceptance isn’t the rule for many gays and lesbians in Charleston and other parts of the state. As an indication, most of the lesbians and gays contacted for this story declined to go on the record for fear of exposing themselves or their partners to harassment. They said they were especially fearful of what might happen to them at work.

South Carolina is home to more than 117,000 gay, lesbian, and bisexual people, almost 3 percent of the population, according to a 2008 estimate by the Williams Institute at UCLA — and that still might be low.

Surveys over the years, administered by such groups as the U.S. Census Bureau, Gallup, the Family Research Report and the Gay and Lesbian Task Force, have produced various estimates, ranging from 2 percent to 25 percent.