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Kansas High Court Allows Gay Marriage In Johnson County

Equality Kansas

Alimited ruling by the Kansas Supreme Court Tuesday opened the door for more gay marriages, yet left in place a patchwork of counties where some judges are approving licenses and some are not.

The court lifted a stay on issuing licenses to same-sex couples in Johnson County, the first county to do so in Kansas back in early October. Chief Judge Kevin Moriarty was "within his jurisdiction" to order clerks to accept applications from and issue licenses to gay and lesbian couples, the high court ruled.

Although the court wrote that federal court rulings "aimed directly at the epicenter of the Kansas same-sex marriage ban," the judges declined to address whether the ban is unconstitutional.  Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, who filed the case with the Kansas Supreme Court, wanted the ban to stay in place pending the exhaustion of all federal appeals.

The ruling is just the latest in a flurry of decisions in the last two months triggered when Moriarty began accepting applications in the state’s most populous county.

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court told the state that it can’t enforce the ban while a lawsuit filed on behalf of two lesbian couples by the ACLU of Kansas made its way through the federal courts.

Doug Bonney, the ACLU’s legal director, said he was "thrilled" that Johnson County can now issues licenses. And he said he wasn’t surprised that the high court refused to offer direction to the rest of the state.

At least two judicial districts – covering Butler, Elk, Greenwood, Saline and Ottawa counties — are refusing to issue licenses. Meanwhile, clerks in other areas, including Douglas and Sedgwick counties, are issuing the legal documents.

Nevertheless, Bonney said he will seek out officials in those areas and add them to his federal lawsuit so all same-sex couples across the state have the right to marry.

“If other judicial districts continue to refuse licenses to same-sex couples, we’re prepared to add them as defendants to our case, compelling them to issue licenses,” Bonney said.


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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