A state judge in Kansas’s Johnson County this afternoon ordered that the county begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, in light of Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court action.
As the high court let stand a ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit that invalidated same-sex marriage bans in Oklahoma and Utah, and that circuit holds jurisdiction over Kansas as well, Judge Kevin Moriarty wrote in his order that “any case from Kansas ... brought before a federal court ... would be bound by the Tenth Circuit decision” and said that court would “no doubt” rule against Kansas’s ban. Moriarty said the clerk of Johnson County, the state's most populous, must issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The county includes several suburbs of Kansas City.
The order came a day after Kansas state officials vowed to continue defending the ban — they have yet to comment on Moriarty's order. Gov. Sam Brownback, an ultraconservative Republican who is in a close race for reelection, Tuesday said the state should fight to keep its ban, which voters approved as an amendment to the state constitution in 2005.
“The people have spoken on this,” Brownback told reporters Tuesday, according to the Associated Press. “I don’t know how much more you can bolster it than to have a vote of the people to put in the constitution that marriage is the union of a man and a woman.”
“Attorney General Derek Schmidt noted that to date no court has squarely decided whether the Kansas constitution’s prohibition on same-sex marriage is invalid, and he said that the state will deal with any litigation as it comes,” the AP reports. The American Civil Liberties Union’s Kansas affiliate, however, is planning to seek a federal court order to block the ban’s enforcement immediately, and its request could be filed as early as next week.
Brownback, a former U.S. senator, is seeking a second term as governor. His challenger, Kansas House minority leader Paul Davis, voted against the ban in the legislature but has avoided discussion of marriage equality in the wake of the latest news, saying his campaign is focused on the economy and school funding. “Moving forward, this issue will likely be determined by the courts,” Davis spokesman Chris Pumpelly said. “As governor, Paul will focus on priorities that unite Kansans.”
Equality Kansas executive director Tom Witt expressed frustration with both Brownback’s vocal opposition and Davis’s silence, the AP reports. “We’re tired of being political stepchildren at best and a political football at worst,” he said. “I would just like to see elected officials of any political affiliation say that LGBT Kansans deserve the same rights as anybody else.”
Meanwhile, in Wyoming, also part of the 10th Circuit, four couples filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday seeking an immediate end to the state’s marriage ban, according to the AP. Gov. Matt Mead said the state’s attorney general will continue defending the ban and, and he claimed the Supreme Court action had no impact on the state. James Lyman, an attorney with Wyoming Equality, begged to differ.
“At the end of the day, the 10th Circuit’s ruling is now the law in Wyoming, which means that same-sex couples now have the fundamental right to get married in Wyoming and the governor and the AG’s office are trying to interfere with that right,” Lyman told the AP.
Officials in South Carolina, which is in a different circuit affected by Tuesday's Supreme Court decision, have already announced intentions to keep on defending that state’s ban. Nevertheless, a probate court in Charleston, S.C., accepted a marriage application from a same-sex couple on Wednesday, and is expected to issue the state's first legal marriage license to a same-sex couple Thursday after a mandatory one-day waiting period.