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U.S. High Court Blocks Gay Marriage In Kansas

Equality Kansas

Kansas’ gay marriage ban went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday, where it was promptly kept in place just a day before the ban was expected to be lifted.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued the order blocking gay marriage at the behest of Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, who wants to keep the ban in place. A federal court order calling the ban unconstitutional was set to take effect at 5 p.m. Tuesday, allowing same-sex marriages to commence.

The ACLU of Kansas, which filed the lawsuit in federal court for two lesbian couples, said it would respond soon. Doug Bonney, the ACLU’s legal director, has argued that every minute that gay couples can’t marry here is a violation of their civil rights.

The flurry of filings and decisions means that gay couples in Kansas who want to wed may have to wait until a final ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, which could take several more months.

Meanwhile, a similar case is moving through the state courts and is currently before the Kansas Supreme Court. In that case, Schmidt is fighting an order by Johnson County Judge Kevin Moriarty that allowed clerks to issue licenses to gay couples. At least one couple, known only as Kelli and Angela, are known to have waited the three days called for on the application and exchanged vows.

Last week, U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Crabtree struck down Kansas’ law banning same-sex marriage, saying it was unconstitutional. Advocates thought that the ruling would make Kansas the 33rd state to allow same-gender unions.

Schmidt took the case to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, which on Friday rejected his request to put Crabtree’s order on hold. He promised to appeal to the high court, saying he had a duty to exhaust all the state’s options because it would disable a state constitutional amendment.

In 2004, 70 percent of Kansans approved the gay marriage ban, saying a union can only be a man and a woman.

Schmidt took heart from a ruling last week by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, which upheld the bans. That decision “creates for the first time a split of authority among the federal appeals courts and increases the likelihood that the U. S. Supreme Court will address this important constitutional question,” Schmidt said.

In a 106-page filing on Monday, Schmidt argued that marriage is a state issue and federal courts should not intervene. Sotomayor quickly handed down the temporary stay and ordered the ACLU to respond by Tuesday.

Are you a gay couple living in the Kansas City area and hoping to wed? Are you making plans? Tell KC what all these legal battles mean for you and your loved ones.

I’m a veteran investigative reporter who came up through newspapers and moved to public media. I want to give people a better understanding of the criminal justice system by focusing on its deeper issues, like institutional racism, the poverty-to-prison pipeline and police accountability. Today this beat is much different from how reporters worked it in the past. I’m telling stories about people who are building significant civil rights movements and redefining public safety. Email me at lowep@kcur.org.
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