Uncertainty clouds gay marriage in Kansas

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt's determination to defend the state's gay-marriage ban remains a roadblock to same-sex weddings. Official photo.

“Get ready for some bumps along the way to full marriage equality.” That’s what Tom Witt, Executive Director of Equality Kansas wrote to his membership this morning. He notes, “Sam Brownback and Attorney General Derek Schmidt are digging in their heels and vowing to continue the fight against full equality for LGBT couples. Schmidt is trying to make the case the Federal court ruling applies only to Douglas and Sedgwick counties, the homes of the two couples who are part of the ACLU lawsuit.”

Here is the early morning summary from the Associated Press’ John Hanna, the AP Political writer for Kansas -

As gay rights activists celebrate a U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing same-sex marriages in Kansas, the court clerk in the most populous county won't grant licenses to gay couples until a separate legal case is resolved before the state's highest court.

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt's determination to defend the state's gay-marriage ban remains a roadblock to same-sex weddings. He has the backing of Gov. Sam Brownback, a fellow Republican who pledged to work with Schmidt to preserve a provision in the state constitution against gay marriage that was approved overwhelmingly by voters in 2005.

The U.S. Supreme Court denied a request Wednesday from Kansas to prevent gay and lesbian couples from marrying while the state fights the issue in court. Schmidt says that decision applies only in Douglas, a northeastern Kansas county, and Sedgwick, in south-central Kansas, where the court clerks are defendants. The American Civil Liberties Union contends the ruling applies in all 105 counties.

The legal situation in Kansas is complicated by another case before the Kansas Supreme Court, which Schmidt filed last month. He persuaded the Kansas court to block marriage licenses for same-sex couples, at least while his case is heard.

Marriage licenses in Kansas are issued by district court clerks' offices after a mandatory three-day wait. In Johnson County, Court Clerk Sandra McCurdy said about 70 applications from same-sex couples are pending.

"Until I hear something from the Kansas Supreme Court, I'm not issuing any marriage licenses," McCurdy said.

Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond, Virginia, law professor, said other clerks are likely to react the same way "out of an abundance of caution."

The U.S. Supreme Court order was consistent with its handling of requests from other states seeking to preserve their bans while they appealed lower-court rulings favoring gays and lesbians.

However, Kansas' emergency appeal was closely watched to see whether the court would change its practice following last week's appellate ruling that upheld anti-gay marriage laws in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee. Those cases now are headed to the Supreme Court, and the gay marriage issue nationwide could be heard and decided by late June.

The U.S. Supreme Court last month declined to hear cases from three appeals courts that had overturned gay marriage bans. Kansas, South Carolina and Montana all have refused to allow gay couples to obtain marriages licenses despite rulings from federal appeals courts that oversee them.

Gay marriage is legal in 32 other states.

Schmidt filed his case with the Kansas Supreme Court after the chief judge in Johnson County responded to last month's U.S. Supreme Court action by ordering licenses to be issued to same-sex couples. A lesbian couple received one and quickly wed, becoming the only known same-sex Kansas couple to do so.


Witt told his readers what Equality Kansas expects today and in the near term:

“Some courts will immediately accept applications, and issue marriage licenses after the three day waiting period.

“Some courts will accept applications, but refuse to issue licenses.

“Some courts will continue to enforce the Kansas ban.

“If you are married out of state, you will continue to encounter resistance from State of Kansas and local government agencies.”

Witt urged couples encountering problems when attempting to exercise their rights to email him at witt@eqks.org. “Be sure to get the name and position of any government official who refuses to recognize your rights. We will pass that information on to the ACLU and will work to resolve issues where we can. We won't be able to solve everything immediately, but we'll be working as fast as we can,” Witt told supporters.

by John Hanna, Associated Press. Associated Press writers Mark Sherman in Washington; Bruce Smith in Charleston, South Carolina; and Alan Scher Zagier in St. Louis also contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

The Gayly – November 13, 2014 @ 8:15am