US Supreme Court gay marriage ruling impacts Kansas case

KSN News (file)
KSN News

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling declaring that gay couples have a right to marry anywhere in the country is expected to bring a quick resolution to a similar case over a Kansas ban that is still before a lower federal court.

The American Civil Liberties Union had filed a lawsuit in October on behalf of two lesbian couples who were denied marriage licenses in Douglas County in northeast Kansas and in Sedgwick County in south-central Kansas. U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree issued a preliminary ruling in that case that gay couples could marry in Kansas, but not all counties have been issuing the licenses.

Crabtree ruled in November that the state couldn’t enforce the ban while the lawsuit was heard.

“For us it means that we win,” said Doug Bonney, legal director for the ACLU’s chapter in Kansas.

Crabtree could rule at any time now on pending motions seeking a summary ruling that permanently bars the state from enforcing laws and a voter-approved provision banning same-sex marriage. The ACLU said Friday’s Supreme Court ruling “should make it easier for him to do so.”

A one-day trial on the lawsuit previously was set for November. Bonney said the case could be resolved more quickly if the state would “admit defeat” and drop its defense of the state’s ban.

Both Gov. Sam Brownback and Attorney General Derek Schmidt said the state will study the ruling further before making any moves in the lawsuit.

Equality Kansas Executive Director Tom Witt said Friday that he’s hoping that Schmidt will “do the right thing.” Witt said he’s happy about the ruling.

“Today we are celebrating and tomorrow we will go back to work,” said Kerry Wilks, one of the plaintiffs challenging the Kansas ban.

Gay and lesbian couples in Kansas still face discrimination, she said, noting it is legal in the state to fire a person for getting married.

Brownback has been a strong supporter of the state’s ban on gay marriage. Voters approved an amendment to the Kansas Constitution in 2005 to reinforce that policy.

“Activist courts should not overrule the people of this state, who have clearly supported the Kansas Constitution’s definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman,” Brownback said in a statement.

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