Kansas seeks to block county gay marriage licenses - KCTV5

Kansas seeks to block county gay marriage licenses

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Kansas' attorney general asked the state Supreme Court on Friday to block same-sex marriage licenses, only hours after a court office in the state's most populous county issued one, believed to be the first in the state, to a gay couple.

The petition from Attorney General Derek Schmidt asked for an immediate order blocking all such licenses, saying the chief district court judge in Johnson County exceeded his authority in ordering clerks and other judges to no longer deny marriage applications from gay couples. The Kansas Constitution bans gay marriage.

Judge Kevin Moriarty issued his order 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 and Oklahoma, which are in the state federal appeals court circuit as Kansas, but there is no pending federal or state lawsuit directly challenging Kansas' ban on gay marriage.

Schmidt said his goal is to "freeze the status quo in place until the legal dispute can be properly resolved."

"I am a strong advocate for an orderly resolution of this dispute in a way that will be accepted by all parties as legally correct and that allows the state to defend its constitutional provision and its laws," Schmidt told The Associated Press just before his office filed the petition.

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

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

The American Civil Liberties Union expected to file a federal lawsuit soon to block enforcement of the state's ban. Gov. Sam Brownback, a conservative Republican who is in a tight race for re-election, supports the ban and says it should be defended in court.

Tom Witt, Equality Kansas' executive director, said in a statement that Brownback and Schmidt "need to stop playing election-year politics with people's lives and allow these legal marriages to proceed."

"The federal courts have ruled, and we all know how this will end," he said. "Delaying the inevitable is a waste of time and taxpayer money, and a gross injustice to LGBT Kansans and their families."

But Senate President Susan Wagle, another GOP conservative who supports the ban, said, "Judge Moriarty is playing the role of antagonist, with the goal of provoking another federal lawsuit."

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, with about 567,000 residents, or nearly 20 percent of the state's population, is home to affluent Kansas City suburbs. It is a Republican stronghold and regularly elects some of the state's most conservative lawmakers.

But the GOP there also 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.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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