Federal Judge: Kansas cannot prevent issuance of gay marriage licenses

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (KSNT) – A federal district court judge says the state of Kansas cannot stop a Johnson County district court  judge from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree issued a preliminary injunction barring the state from enforcing its constitutional ban as of 5 p.m. next Tuesday, pending the outcome of an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit challenging it.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued to overturn Kansas’ ban after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear appeals from five states seeking to save their gay marriage bans. Among them were Oklahoma and Utah, which are in the same appeals court circuit as Kansas.

The ACLU says denying the couples it is representing the right to marry, even for a short period, would do them irreparable harm.s denying the couples it is representing the right to marry, even for a short period, would do them irreparable harm.

State Attorney General Derek Schmidt had argued that when a Johnson County district court judge allowed same-sex marriage licenses to be issued last month that it violated a state constitutional amendment stating marriage is only between a man and a woman.

In issuing his ruling, Crabtree wrote “On one hand, ‘it is always in the public interest to prevent the violation of a party’s constitutional rights.’ On the other hand, the public interest values enforcement of democratically enacted laws. This latter value must yield though, when binding precedent shows that the laws are unconstitutional.”

In concluding, he notes “Consistent with this precedent, the Court concludes that the public interest favors protecting plaintiffs’ constitutional rights by enjoining Kansas’ plainly unconstitutional provisions.

Shortly after 5:00 p.m. Tuesday, Schmidt issued a brief statement saying the state will appeal Crabtree’s ruling:

“The State of Kansas continues to have a strong interest in the orderly and final determination of the constitutionality of its prohibitions on same-sex marriage.  The state defendants will promptly appeal this decision to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals and will ask for consideration by the full Circuit Court.  Such a request for en banc consideration was not previously made by either Utah or Oklahoma when their cases were heard by a three-judge panel of the appellate court.

“The District Court recognized the weight of its decision to declare a provision of the Kansas Constitution in violation of the United States Constitution and thus unenforceable.  Kansas appreciates Judge Crabtree’s willingness to delay his order while the state defendants file their appeal.”

The Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law says the ruling affects as many as 4,009 “cohabitating same-sex couples, of whom an estimated 22% are raising nearly 1,750 children in their homes.”

Crabtree wrote that Kansas’ ban is infringing on the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights, and he seemed reluctant to delay their right to marry, even by a week. He said the 10th Circuit had already settled the substance of the constitutional challenge, but conceded that the appeals court may view the case differently than he views it.

The institute also says that more than 2,000 of those couples will marry in the first three years of licenses becoming available and will generate spending of more than $14.1 million in Kansas with an additional $1.15 million generated in sales tax revenue. It finally predicts that same-sex couples’ wedding ceremonies and celebrations is expected to create between 75 and 225 jobs in tourism and recreation for the state.

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