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ACLU Broadens Suit Over Kansas Ban On Same-Sex Marriage

Alan C.
Creative Commons-Flickr


The American Civil Liberties Union has broadened its lawsuit over Kansas’ ban on same-sex marriage, seeking to enforce inheritance, driver's license and health insurance rights on behalf of same-sex couples.

The original lawsuit was filed in October by two lesbian couples and sought a ruling that Kansas’ same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional. The amended complaint seeks to require state officials to recognize the marriages of couples who were wed in other states as well as in Kansas.  

“It’s like my wife and I,” said Mark P. Johnson, a lawyer working with the ACLU on behalf of the plaintiffs. “We got married in Connecticut and moved to Missouri, where we live now, and we never thought twice about whether our marriage is legal in Missouri. Of course it is.”

Johnson said the original suit merely asserted a marriage claim – whether same-sex couples should be allowed to marry in Kansas. The amended complaint, he said, adds a recognition claim.

“The other side of the coin is, once they’re married, how are they treated,” he said.

U.S. District Judge Daniel D. Crabtree ruled on Nov. 4 that the state’s same-sex marriage ban violates the U.S. Constitution. Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt has since appealed Crabtree’s decision to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.

However, the case remains before Crabtree because he has not made a final decision in the case yet.

“What we have is a preliminary injunction,” Johnson said. “So what Judge Crabtree has to do now is determine whether a permanent injunction should be entered.”

The new lawsuit adds three more couples to the two couples originally named as plaintiffs. And it adds three more state officials to the three state officials originally named as defendants.

Each of the three couples added to the lawsuit is validly married, according to the revised complaint. It says one couple was married in Iowa, another in Illinois and the third in Riley County, Kan.

The original lawsuit named as defendants Robert Moser, the head of the state agency that oversees vital records, as well as the clerks of Douglas and Sedgwick counties, who had refused to issue same-sex marriage licenses.

The three defendants added to the lawsuit are Nick Jordan, Secretary of the Kansas Department of Revenue; Lisa Kaspar, director of the Division of Vehicles; and Mike Michael, director of the State Employee Health Plan.

None of the defendants could be reached for comment.

According to the revised complaint, each of the agencies overseen by the newly added defendants refused to recognize the marriages of the plaintiffs.

“Barring same-sex couples from marriage and recognition disqualifies them from critically important rights and responsibilities that different-sex couples rely upon to secure their commitment to each other and to safeguard their families,” the complaint states.

“By way of example only, same-sex couples are denied the ability to solemnize their relationships through state-sanctioned ceremonies and officiants, to inherit property through intestate succession laws, to change their last names on their drivers’ licenses, to add their spouses as dependents on their state health insurance coverage, and to file joint state income tax returns.”

Dan Margolies has been a reporter for the Kansas City Business Journal, The Kansas City Star, and KCUR Public Radio. He retired as a reporter in December 2022 after a 37-year journalism career.
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