Same-sex marriage license issued in Johnson County, not in Wyand - KCTV5

Same-sex marriage license issued in Johnson County, not in Wyandotte County

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Chief Judge R. Wayne Lampson's explanation of the denial of Danen Haxton and Roger Brown's marriage license. Chief Judge R. Wayne Lampson's explanation of the denial of Danen Haxton and Roger Brown's marriage license.
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The Johnson County District Court clerk's office has issued a marriage license to a gay couple, believed to be the first in the state of Kansas.

Liz Dickinson, a member of the gay-rights group Equality Kansas, said she was at the county courthouse Friday when the couple received their license. The clerk's office confirmed that a license was issued. The clerk declined to identify the couple.

The couple given that license became the first same-sex couple legally married in Kansas.

KCTV5 first introduced viewers to a couple who only wished to use their first names, Angela and Kelli, as they applied for their marriage license. On Friday, they made it official inside the Johnson County Courthouse. They asked for privacy after their ceremony.

“They were totally excited about it and they had applied and they were going to be there first thing this morning," said Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist Rev. Benjamin Maucere, who performed their marriage. "It was a thrill not only to support them, but to make history which is pretty cool whenever that happens."

Maucere said the two women wanted to wed quickly because they knew legal challenges could be coming, which they did later in the day Friday. The Kansas Supreme Court put on hold the Johnson County judge's order to clerks to approve gay marriages. That came two days after district court Chief Judge Kevin Moriarty directed clerks and other judges to begin issuing licenses to same-sex couples - even though the Kansas Constitution bans gay marriage under a provision voters approved in 2005.

Moriarty acted after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear appeals from five other states seeking to preserve their gay-marriage bans. The states included Utah, which is in the same appeals court circuit as Kansas.

But the wedding plans of gay couples across the state remain in limbo, with nearly all of the state's 105 counties refusing to issue marriage licenses.

In Wyandotte County, a judge is denying same-sex marriage licenses because he says Kansas law prohibits it. One denied couple said the state's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional and will be overturned.

“I woke up really excited. I was like, 'this is it!'” RJ Brown said.

KCTV5 was there when Brown and Danen Haxton applied for their marriage license on Tuesday. Friday they learned a judge denied their application.

“As soon as I heard him say, 'you will be denied. I don't agree with this ruling.' I walked away. I didn't want to get upset,” Brown said.

In the letter explaining why the couple's marriage license was denied, Chief Judge R. Wayne Lampson said that federal courts have not ruled on Kansas law, therefore the prohibition of same-sex marriage remains intact in the state.

“I'm ready for the fight. I'm ready for the equality fight. I'm ready to get it started in Kansas. I'm hoping in every other community, in every other county, somebody applies,” Haxton said.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback issued a statement saying he supports the lawsuit challenging the validity of same-sex marriages in Kansas.

“It's very unfortunate that Gov. Brownback doesn't feel that all Kansans deserve to live happy and respectful lives with dignity. It's also a tragedy to the Kansas taxpayer,” said Sandra Meade, the Equality Kansas state chair.

Some counties initially refused to even hand out marriage license paperwork to same-sex couples until the lawyer for the Kansas Office of Judicial Administration sent an email Tuesday to chief judges suggesting that counties accept the applications and noted that litigation was likely.

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt asked for an immediate order blocking all such licenses, saying the chief district judge in Johnson County exceeded his authority in ordering clerks to accept applications since the Kansas constitution bans gay marriage.

“Judge Moriarty in Johnson County took a different position and basically found that he could disregard clearly unconstitutional state laws,” said the Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas Doug Bonney.

Bonney said, right now, the applicants in Kansas will likely get denied.

“This is happening in every judicial district in Kansas except Johnson County,” he said.

Late Friday afternoon, the ACLU filed a federal lawsuit to block enforcement of the state's ban.

“The binding circuit precedent on this question is that states cannot enforce laws like Kansas' prohibition on same-sex marriage. That should mean that responsible state officials would concede and throw in the towel. That's not what's happening,” Bonney said.

By late Thursday afternoon, the court clerk's office in Johnson County had accepted 42 applications from same-sex couples. State law imposes a three-day waiting period.

Johnson County is home to affluent Kansas City suburbs. While it is a Republican stronghold, the GOP there is split between conservatives and moderates - and several moderate GOP senators were vocal critics of the ban on gay marriage before lawmakers placed it on the ballot in 2005.

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