US Supreme Court lifts hold on same-sex marriage in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP/KSNT) — The U.S. Supreme Court said Wednesday that same-sex marriages can go ahead in Kansas.

The nation’s highest court denied the state’s request to prevent gay and lesbian couples from marrying while Kansas fights the issue in court. The state constitution includes a provision banning gay marriage, approved overwhelmingly by voters in 2005.

“Now, this is a day to celebrate,” said Tomas Witt, Executive Director of the gay rights group Kansas Equality Coalition

Kerry Wilks of Wichita was one of the plaintiffs named in the initial lawsuit challenging the ban.

“I mean this might seem fast and quick for so many people for the last few weeks,” she says “but the fact of thematter is there’s been a lot of people working for equality in Kansas, for years.”.

A federal district judge last week blocked the state from enforcing its ban, saying it was in keeping with an earlier ruling by a federal appeals court that struck down bans in Oklahoma and Utah.

The judge’s ruling was supposed to go into effect Tuesday, but Justice Sonia Sotomayor temporarily put it on hold while the high court reviewed the case.

Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas would have sided with the state.

The ruling came in a lawsuit filed last month by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of two lesbian couples denied marriage licenses.

The legal situation was complicated in Kansas because state Attorney General Derek Schmidt filed his own case with the Kansas Supreme Court, seeking to block marriage licenses for gay couples. The Kansas court blocked further licenses while it reviewed the case and its order is still in effect, making it unclear how the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision Wednesday will be applied in individual counties.

Governor Sam Brownback isn’t giving up on defending the ban, saying it is worth defending because voters overwhelminging approved an amendment to the state constitution against gay marriage in 2005.

He said he would review the decision and consult with state Attorney General Derek Schmidt on “how best we continue those efforts”

“My message to them,” says Thomas Witt, Executive Director of the Kansas Equality Coalition “is to accept the fact that equal marriage is here, stop wasting time, stop wasting taxpayers money.”

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the Kansas case came the same day a federal judge struck down South Carolina’s same-sex marriage ban as unconstitutional, opening the door to such marriages but also giving the state a week to appeal. The attorney general said he would do so immediately.

U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel, ruling in the case of a same-sex couple from Charleston who sued to be married, found South Carolina’s state constitutional ban “invalid as a matter of law.”

 

 

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

 

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