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Kansas gay rights and marriage equality news

 

Marriage Equality Comes to Kansas – The Details

Thursday, November 13th, 2014

KansasAfter putting a temporary hold on marriage equality on Monday, the US Supreme Court cleared the way for weddings to begin yesterday.

LGBTQ Nation reports:

The nation’s highest court denied a request from Kansas to prevent gay and lesbian couples from marrying while the state fights the issue in court. The order is consistent with how the justices have handled recent requests from other states that have sought to keep their bans in place while they appealed lower court rulings in favor of gay and lesbian couples. However, Kansas’ emergency appeal was closely watched to see if the court would change its practice following last week’s appellate ruling upholding 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.

As Lyle Denniston at Scotusblog notes, this time was a little different.

Joe.My.God reports:

The Court has issued a series of orders in same-sex marriage cases over the past eleven months, but the Kansas order marked the first time that members of the Court had recorded dissents. Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas noted only that they would have granted the delay sought by the Kansas attorney general. Kansas officials had attempted to show that their case was different from others that the Supreme Court had chosen to leave undisturbed, arguing that the federal judge’s order was an invalid attempt to second-guess a Kansas Supreme Court order delaying the issuance of same-sex marriages. The federal judge had rejected that claim, but it may have been the one that drew the implied support of Justices Scalia and Thomas. The state still has an appeal pending at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, but that has little promise, because that appeals court has struck down bans in two other states in its region — Oklahoma and Utah. The Supreme Court refused to review those Tenth Circuit rulings on October 6. The Kansas ban is almost identical to those in other states.

Atty. Gen. Derek Schmidt is trying to limit the ruling to just two counties.

Joe.My.God reports:

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.

Newly reelected Gov. Sam Brownback said he is not giving up on defending the ban.

LGBGQ Nation reports:

The Republican governor supports the ban and has said it is worth defending because voters overwhelmingly approved an amendment to the state constitution against gay marriage in 2005. After the U.S. Supreme Court ruling, the governor issued a statement saying he took an oath to support the state constitution. He added that he would review the decision and consult with state Attorney General Derek Schmidt on “how best we continue those efforts.”

We’ll see how much they continue to dig in their heels until they finally give in to the inevitable.

Find more articles and gay wedding resources in Kansas.

Supreme Court Grants 24 Hour Stay in Kansas Marriage Equality Case

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

Justice Sonia SotomayorSame-sex couples in Kansas will have to wait little bit longer before they can get married, after Justice Sonia Sotomayor granted a short stay in the marriage equality case.

MSNBC reports:

With just over 24 hours to go until a ruling striking down Kansas’ same-sex marriage ban was due to take effect, Justice Sonia Sotomayor on Monday granted an emergency request for a stay from the state’s Republican Attorney General Derek Schmidt. The stay might not last long; Sotomayor, the justice assigned to the 10th Circuit (which has jurisdiction over Kansas,) granted the request “pending receipt of a response, due on or before Tuesday, November 11, 2014, by 5 p.m. ET.” “She’s granted what sounds like a 24-hour stay,” said Tom Witt, executive director of Equality Kansas, to msnbc. “It’s real hard to say what’s going to happen next.”

Kansas lawyers cited the 6th Circuit ruling five times in their stay application, according to the Associated Press, in an attempt to convince the justices that the issue was not yet settled nationally and should be put on hold until the high court rules. That logic has worked in the past, with the Supreme Court granting stays in similar cases out of Utah and Virginia.

We’re not sure what wonderful new arguments the state is going to come up with to try to preserve its ban. But ultimately, it may make little difference, as weddings could not have began today anyway since clerks’ offices are closed for Veterans Day.

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Judge Denies Westboro Intervention in Kansas Marriage Equality Case, Tenth Circuit Denies Stay

Saturday, November 8th, 2014

KansasWe have a couple new developments in the Kansas marriage equality case. First off, A judge basically told the Westboro Baptist Church to piss off in the request to intervene in the case.

The Washington Blade reports:

U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree, an Obama appointee who on Election Day ruled against the Kansas ban on same-sex marriage, determined in a seven-page decision state officials defending Kansas law adequately represent Westboro’s interests. “WBC has not identified any differences between the defendant’s ultimate objective in the litigation and its own,” Crabtree writes. “Nor can the Court identify any–both seek to uphold Kansas’ constitutional and statutory prohibitions against same-sex marriage. A shared ultimate objective between an existing party and an applicant for intervention triggers a presumption of adequate representation.”

And on the same day, the 10th circuit denied the state’s request for a stay.

Joe.My.God reports:

The district court granted preliminary injunctive relief to plaintiffs on November 4, enjoining defendants from enforcing or applying Kansas constitutional and statutory provisions that prohibit issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The district court then stayed its injunctive order until 5:00 p.m. on November 11. Defendants immediately appealed the preliminary injunction ruling and also filed an emergency motion pursuant to 10th Cir. R. 8.1, asking this court to stay the district court’s injunctive order pending their appeal of the ruling. We conclude that defendants have failed to make the showings necessary to obtain a stay, and we deny the emergency motion for a stay pending appeal. We note that the district court’s temporary stay of its own preliminary injunction order remains in effect until 5:00 p.m. CST on November 11, 2014.

Noew the state has asked the US Supreme Court to step in.

Pink News reports:

The state of Kansas has asked the Supreme Court to halt same-sex weddings, which are due to begin statewide on Tuesday. Weddings are set to begin next Tuesday, after the Attorney General Derek Schmidt had his desperate attempt to stop them rejected by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. However, Mr Schmidt has now taken his case even further – asking the Supreme Court to halt the marriages. He said: “Because the federal District Court’s injunction will effectively disable a provision in the Kansas Constitution, I believe I have a duty to exhaust all of the state’s options for appeal.

If recent history is any guide, he’ll get a swift respnse from the Court, and it will be a “no”. In that case, the current stay will expire on Tuesday, November 11, and same-sex couples will be free to marry across the state.

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Federal Judge Strikes Down Marriage Equality Ban

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

KansasLost amidst all the election news – a Federal Judge in Kansas struck down the marriage equality ban there, with weddings to commence on November 11th.

The Washington Blade reports:

In a 38-page decision, U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree, an Obama appointee, issued a preliminary injunction against the enforcement on Kansas law prohibiting of marriage rights for same-sex couples. The injunction is warranted, Crabtree writes, because of legal precedent and because state officials defending the law haven’t made a sufficient case they would prevail in court. “Because Kansas’ constitution and statutes indeed do what Kitchen forbids, the Court concludes that Kansas’ same-sex marriage ban violates the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution,” Crabtree writes. “Accordingly, the Court grants plaintiffs’ request for preliminary relief and enters the injunction described at the end of this Order.”

Of course, there’s that state Supreme Court hearing today, so we’ll see how that plays into things.

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Marriage Equality: What’s Going On in Kansas

Saturday, 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.

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Marriage Equality Updates: Kansas

Monday, October 6th, 2014

KansasWe’re running down some of the updates in the aftermath of the shocking Supreme Court decision to turn down all the pending marriage equality cases.

Next, Kansas.

Kansas is not one of the states with a lawsuit before the Supreme Court, so they will have to issue marriage licenses fairly soon, most likely. but not right away. But at least one clerk is not on board.

The Wichita Eagle reports:

Cristel and Darla Heffron, who were married in a civil union in Hawaii in 2013, were excited by Monday’s Supreme Court ruling that appeared to make gay marriage legal in 11 more states, including Kansas. “We’ve been waiting for it to be legal in Kansas,” said Cristel Heffron, 32, of Peck. “That way we have the same benefits and the same legal rights as anyone else.” But when they went to the Sedgwick County Courthouse on Monday afternoon for a marriage license, they were turned away on orders from a district court judge. Several other same-sex couples were denied licenses by the county, as well. “I guess I kind of knew there was a likely chance of being denied,” Heffron said, “but when it actually happened, I did start to tear up and become emotional. It is upsetting. We waited a long time, and now we’re still waiting.”

Other couples had the same experience. SDGLN reports:

Dan Barnes, 41, and Wade Honey, 44, drove to Shawnee County, Kansas today to apply for a marriage license. However, they were disappointed when they learned they would not get a marriage license. “You can’t do that in the state of Kansas,” Nancy Escalante, supervisor for marriage licenses at the court, said, as reported by The Topeka Capital-Journal. “Our application says ‘man and woman.’ The Legislature has not changed it.” Equality Kansas said a number of gay and lesbian couples asked for licenses today, and were turned down. Some of the couples may end up suing for marriage rights.

Someone’s in for a rude awakening.

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It’s Baaaack… the Kansas Right to Discriminate Bill Returns

Monday, July 7th, 2014

KansasThe zombie armies of the religious right are mounting another attack, planning to revive the failed Right to Discriminate bill in the state in January.

LGBTQ Nation reports:

Same-sex marriage opponents argue that Kansas should shield their religious liberties before the state’s ban falls. The prospect is possible after the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which also has jurisdiction over Kansas, struck down Utah’s ban last month. The Rev. Terry Fox, a prominent Southern Baptist minister in Wichita and a leader in getting voters to approve Kansas’ gay marriage ban in 2005, said he and other pastors are determined to get legislators to take up the issue after reconvening in January. The Kansas Catholic Conference also views additional legal protections as vital. “We are not going to let it die. We are very committed,” Fox said. “The Body of Christ is a powerful movement when it comes together.”

Will it fare any better this time around? Expect to hear the phrase “Hobby Lobby” used incessantly during the debate.

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USA, Kansas: Gay Rights Activists Press Ahead After Victory

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

KansasAfter having won a battle preventing an anti gay Right to Discriminate law from passing, LGBT activists are now pressing for legal protections in the state.

LGBTQ Nation reports:

Having won a key legislative fight with social conservatives in Kansas, gay rights advocates aren’t content with simply blocking a measure they said would have encouraged businesses and government workers to refuse to serve gays and lesbians in the name of religious freedom. They’re after something much bigger: New protections for gays and lesbians against bias in hiring, employment, housing and public accommodations. When legislators begin the second half of their annual session this week, Equality Kansas, the state’s leading gay rights group, and its allies will push lawmakers to rewrite Kansas’ anti-discrimination laws to cover sexual orientation and gender identity.

It’s like when we defeated the anti marriage equality bill in Minnesota, and then turned around to push for full marriage equality. Take the fight to them while they’re down.

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USA: Anti Gay Bills Dead in South Dakota, Kansas, and Tennessee

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

Gay RightsThree states that were considering “Right to Discriminate” bills have killed them.

The Times-Union reports on the South Dakota bill:

A measure that sought to prevent lawsuits against businesses that refuse to hire or provide services to gays and lesbians was rejected Tuesday by a South Dakota legislative panel after opponents said the bill was unnecessary and would send a message of hate or fear. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 5-2 to kill the bill, which also sought to protect people from being sued for expressing their beliefs on sexual orientation.

Sen. Jean Hunhoff, R-Yankton, a member of the committee, said the measure and similar ones introduced during this year’s legislative session seem to be focused on trying to divide society. “Because what? We fear them? We fear what it’s going to lead to?” Hunhoff said. “I have a difficult time as a faith-based person that I’m supposed to be afraid of these people.”

Pink News reports on the Kansas bill:

A Tennessee Senator has dropped a bill which would have allowed businesses to refuse service for gay couples’ weddings based on religious beliefs. Senator Mike Bell on Tuesday shelved the ‘Religious Freedom Act’, (SB2566) before it went to a vote. After having taken over as lead sponsor of the bill last week, Bell admitted that the legislation was unnecessary, noting that business owners already have protections under Tennessee law. “I’m convinced that current law protects people of faith,” Bell said.

And USA Today reports from Kansas:

Senate leaders already had said the bill would not pass their chamber, but [Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Jeff] King said Tuesday that his committee won’t even take it up. “We’re not working House Bill 2453,” said King, an Independence Republican, referring to the measure by number. King said he’s not drafting a narrower alternative. He said he’ll have hearings so interested parties can have national experts discuss whether Kansas needs a new law. “Something new would have to arise out of these hearings,” he said.

I would have thought that bills like these would have been a slam dunk in states like Tennessee, Kansas and South Dakota. We really have come so far, so fast.

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USA, Kansas: Senate Republicans Block “Right to Discriminate” Bill

Monday, February 17th, 2014

Kansas Senate President Susan WagleThe anti-gay marriage bill passed by the House that would have allowed anyone to discriminate against same sex couples has been stopped, for now.

Gay Star News reports:

The bill was passed by the state House of Representatives but has now been blocked in the senate where Republicans hold a 32 to 8 majority. Senate Republicans said that allowing government employees to legally discriminate in their duties went too far and that the bill would have to be amended before they could even consider passing it.

Businesses in Kansas can already legally discriminate against anyone they want to as the state has no anti-discrimination laws. ‘I believe that when you hire police officers or a fireman that they have no choice in who they serve. They serve anyone who’s vulnerable, any age, any race, any sexual orientation, Republican Senate President Susan Wagle told the Wichita Eagle on Friday.

The bill could still be amended to allow businesses to discriminate.

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