While about a quarter of Kansas’s counties are issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, the state’s archconservative Republican governor, Sam Brownback, remains so determined to block marriage equality that he says there will be no state recognition of the unions until further notice.
That means, among other things, that people who take a same-sex spouse’s name won’t be able to change their name on their driver’s license, and that state employees can’t get benefits for same-sex spouses, reports Kansas City public radio station KCUR.
“There is still considerable legal ambiguity on the topic of same-sex marriage,” Brownback aide Eileen Hawley said today. “Once that ambiguity is gone, the governor will direct state agencies to comply with applicable laws.”
A federal court this month struck down Kansas’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage, and the U.S. Supreme Court stayed that ruling only briefly, allowing marriages to begin last week. But the state’s attorney general, Derek Schmidt, contends the ruling applies only to the two counties whose clerks were named as defendants in the suit. The American Civil Liberties Union, which represents the couples seeking marriage rights, says it applies statewide.
Meanwhile Schmidt, also a Republican and a supporter of the marriage ban, says the same-sex couples who have wed in the state so far are legally married, but he also vowed to fight marriage equality all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary, KCUR reports. Both Schmidt and Brownback were reelected to office this month.
At last count, 24 of Kansas’s 105 counties were licensing same-sex marriages, according to the station. This week Johnson County, the state’s most populous one as it includes many Kansas City suburbs, joined the list when the state Supreme Court lifted a stay of a county judge’s order to issue licenses to same-sex couples. The state high court, however, did not rule on the legality of same-sex marriage overall.
Tom Witt, executive director of Equality Kansas, expressed frustration with the situation, including the conflicting signals coming from Brownback and Schmidt. “It’s clear that they don’t respect what’s coming from the federal courts and they will continue to discriminate and deny gay and lesbian couples their constitutional rights as long as they can,” Witt told KCUR.