Marriage Equality: What’s Going On in Kansas

Written by scott on October 11th, 2014

KansasKansas is one of the last hold-outs on marriage equality in the group of states affected by the US Supreme Court’s non-decision earlier this week. Here’s what’s going on there.

Johnson County started the ball rolling Tuesday, accepting applications for marriage licenses. LGBTQ Nation reports:

So far, only Johnson County has announced plans to issue licenses to gay couples. The county could be poised to issue the state’s first same-sex marriage license as soon as Friday, two days after Chief District Judge Kevin Moriarty ruled the county could no longer deny the applications. Kansas has a three-day waiting period before licenses can be granted, but although Moriarty issued his ruling Wednesday, the county accepted one application Tuesday from a same-sex couple, said Sandy McCurdy, the county’s court clerk. By late Thursday afternoon, the county had accepted 42 applications.

Also Tuesday, the Kansas Office of Judicial Administration suggested that counties let judges make the determination. LGBTQ Nation reports:

Some counties initially refused to even hand out marriage license paperwork to same-sex couples until the lawyer for the Kansas Office of Judicial Administration sent an email Tuesday to chief judges suggesting that counties accept the applications and noted that litigation was likely. “My recommendation is that judges, not clerks, make the decision to grant or deny a marriage license under existing Kansas law, rather than requiring a district court clerk to do so and then be required to defend a civil lawsuit,” said the email from Martha Coffman.

On Wednesday, a district court judge told clerks and judges in the state to start issuing licenses to same sex couples. LGBTQ Nation reports:

…[on Wednesday] district court Chief Judge Kevin Moriarty directed clerks and other judges to begin issuing licenses to same-sex couples – even though the Kansas Constitution bans gay marriage under a provision voters approved in 2005. Moriarty acted after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear appeals from five other states seeking to preserve their gay-marriage bans.

On Thursday, Riley County accepted a marriage license from a same sex cuple, only to have a judge turn it down Friday. LGBTQ Nation reports:

A Kansas judge has denied a marriage license for a same-sex couple who said their application had been accepted with open arms a day earlier. KMAN-AM reports that Darcie Bonhenblust and her partner, Joleen Hickman, found out Friday morning their application had been denied. The two say the Riley County clerk told them Thursday when they filed their application there was a three-day waiting period and they could come back Tuesday to pick up their license. But on Friday morning they received an order from Judge Meryl Wilson denying the license.

By Friday, Johnson County actually handed out a marriage license to one couple. LGBTQ Nation reports:

A court office in Kansas’ most populous county issued a marriage license Friday to a gay couple, believed to be the first such license in the state. Liz Dickinson, a member of the gay-rights group Equality Kansas, said she was at the county courthouse Friday when the couple received their license. The Johnson County District Court clerk’s office confirmed that a license was issued. The clerk declined to identify the couple.

The couple quickly married, becoming the only legally married same sex couple in the state. Gay Star News reports:

According to the Associated Press, the Johnson County newlyweds are identified only Kelli and Angela. The women asked to be identified only by their first names to help protect their privacy. The marriage took place in Johnson County after Chief Judge Kevin Moriarty directed other judges and court clerks to approve marriage licenses for gay couples. The ceremony was officiated by the couple’s pastor at the courthouse in Olathe, Kansas, and after they exchanged vows, the women both returned to work. ‘Kelli and Angela are grateful for the outpouring of congratulations, well-wishes, and support from around our great state and nation,’ the Kansas Equality Coalition said in a statement.

Also on Friday, the Kansas Attorney General asked the state Supreme Court to block the issuance of any more licenses. Towleroad.com reports:

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt has asked the state Supreme Court to stop gay marriages from taking place in Johnson County – the state’s most populous county… “The Johnson County Court’s decision is an outlier,” Schmidt said in a statement accompanying his filing. “Numerous other Kansas Courts have concluded, as I have, that the law in Kansas remains unchanged and same-sex marriage remains unlawful unless and until a Court of competent jurisdiction, deciding a properly presented case or controversy, holds otherwise as a matter of federal constitutional law. Because that has not happened, I have concluded the Judge’s decision to order the issuance of licenses is unlawful and I now have no choice but to ask the Kansas Supreme Court to set it aside.”

The Kansas Supreme Court complied with the request, putting everything on hold for now. NBC News reports:

The Kansas Supreme Court on Friday ordered a clerk in that state to stop issuing same-sex marriage licenses, after a lower court judge allowed them after other courts struck down bans on gay marriage similar to the one in Kansas. The state Supreme Court Friday evening granted a request by the Kansas attorney general that the marriage licenses be put on hold, but allowed clerks to accept applications for licenses.

SF Gate has more details:

…the victory for supporters of the Kansas Constitution’s ban on gay marriage could be short-lived. The state’s highest court signaled in its brief order that it has questions about whether the ban is permissible under recent federal court rulings, and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit seeking to overturn it… The state’s highest court blocked the granting of further marriage licenses for gay couples “in the interest of establishing statewide consistency,” said its order, signed by Chief Justice Lawton Nuss. But the court cited recent federal court decisions striking down other states’ bans and said it would consider arguments on whether the ban remains permissible under the U.S. Constitution. The court set a hearing for Nov. 6 — two days after the general election.

Governor Sam Brownback, fighting for his political life in the state, reiterated his support for the ban. SDGLN reports:

Embattled Gov. Sam Brownback, a far-right Republican fighting for re-election, said in a statement that he would uphold the state constitution. Voters amended the state constitution to ban gay marriage. Brownback and Schmidt are waging a fruitless battle to stop gay marriages because of the 10th Circuit ruling, which the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday let stand as the law. Critics say they are playing politics in an election year and wasting taxpayer money to fight a losing cause.

So now we wait to see which gets there first – the Supreme Court hearing or the Federal one.

Find more articles and gay wedding resources in Kansas.

 

2 Comments so far ↓

  1. Jared Parker says:

    Great news. Everyone was created equal

  2. :Morgan says:

    Kansas fighting to maintain its own marriage discrimination apartheid. Just a matter of time. Its neighbor on its southern edge, Oklahoma, has marriage equality. It neighbor on its western edge, Colorado, has marriage equality. Its neighbor on its eastern edge Missouri now recognizes same-sex marriages from places where legal even though it has none of its own. Its neighbor to the north Nebraska is now “bookended” between marriage equality states Iowa to its east and Colorado on its southwestern edge. The Dakotas straight up this “stack” of Midwestern states have marriage equality Minnesota on their eastern edges and North Dakota has an entire northern international border with marriage equality Canada. The “domino” effect maybe have halted for the time being, but the “dominos” are being slowly pushed ever so slightly. That seems to be the case in Kansas where a losing battle to maintain marriage apartheid is losing bit by bit with an application here and a license there and some uncertainty and disagreement over the whole process of whether or not to give marriage applications and license to same-sex couples is apparently according to this article the case currently in Kansas. Even though other states affected by the same circuit court rulings such as Utah, Colorado and Oklahoma now have marriage equality. Seems to me that Kansas same-sex couples can go southward to Oklahoma and get married and bring their marriages home to Kansas and begin to sue Kansas to force KS to do what it should be already doing. That is recognize their marriages. And Kansas should not need to be sued by the ACLU or anyone else to force it to do the right thing.

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