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Marriage Equality

Kansas Gay Couples May Be Able to Marry Next Week

Kansas Gay Couples May Be Able to Marry Next Week

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A federal judge has issued an order barring enforcement of the state's marriage ban, but it's on hold for a week.

Kansas took another step toward marriage equality today, as a federal judge issued an injunction barring officials from enforcing the state's ban on same-sex marriage, meaning certain counties could issue licenses to gay and lesbian couples, but it's on hold for a week, giving the state time to appeal.

U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree agreed to the injunction, sought by same-sex couples challenging the ban, because they "are 'substantially likely to succeed on the merits' of the case and because they 'will suffer irreparable injury if the injunction is denied,'" the Lawrence Journal-World reports.

Kansas attorney general Derek Schmidt has said he would appeal any such order. But that appeal would go to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, which has ruled for marriage equality in cases from Utah and Oklahoma. Crabtree's order is stayed until 5 p.m. November 11, unless the attorney general's office files notice earlier that it will not appeal.

"The immediate impact of the order could be very limited, but it also paves the way for the 10th Circuit, which has overturned similar state laws banning same-sex marriage, to rule directly on the constitutional ban in Kansas," the Journal-World explains. "The order applies only to the defendants in the case -- district court clerks in Douglas and Sedgwick County who are responsible for issuing marriage licenses -- and the secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, whose Office of Vital Statistics records marriage certificates. It does not, however, apply to recognizing same-sex marriages that were performed legally in other states."

Nonetheless, equality advocates applauded the order. "This is a giant step forward down the road to marriage equality," Tom Witt, director of LGBT rights group Equality Kansas, told the paper. "We thank Judge Crabtree for honoring the constitution, and we call on Gov. [Sam] Brownback and Attorney General Schmidt to do the same." Brownback, a conservative Republican who has often touted his opposition to marriage equality, is in a close reelection race against Democrat Paul Davis.

"Today's victory adds to the tremendous momentum toward full marriage equality to which our country has been building in the past year and, especially, within the past few weeks," said a statement issued by Doug Bonney, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas, which represents the couples. "The ACLU of Kansas will remain vigilant in opposition to any discriminatory measures put forth to chip away at equal treatment for same-sex couples moving forward."

Schmidt's staff had asked Judge Crabtree not to rule on the injunction request because a marriage equality case is also pending at the state level. The Kansas Supreme Court will hold a hearing Thursday in a case involving a Johnson County judge's order that the county issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. However, Crabtree wrote in his decision that "concurrent state and federal court litigation over similar issues" was insufficient reason to avoid ruling.

After court proceedings Friday, plaintiff Kerry Wilks said there's no reason to delay allowing same-sex couples to marry. "One minute is too long to wait," she said, according to the Associated Press. "Look me in my eyes. Look me in my human face. We are people. We want to get married."

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