Gay couples marry in Kansas despite legal fight



KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Gay couples across Kansas headed to county offices Thursday where judges were granting marriage licenses and waiving waiting periods after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling cleared the way for same-sex unions over the objections of the state’s attorney general.

Despite a legal tangle involving the state Supreme Court, gay partners moved ahead with wedding plans and in one instance a lesbian couple married in front of the courthouse in Manhattan, Kansas, home of Kansas State University.

“We got it!” Joleen Hickman said, according to The Manhattan Mercury, as she held up her marriage license.

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said Wednesday that a separate challenge before the state Supreme Court should prevent gay marriage in all but the two counties that were home to cases covered in the ruling from the nation’s capital. But as couples beyond those counties picked up marriage licenses Thursday, Schmidt’s office did not issue a new statement or respond to questions about the latest developments.

Schmidt has said previously that it’s his duty to exhaust all options to uphold the state’s gay marriage ban, because voters overwhelmingly approved it in 2005.

The case in Kansas was filed after dozens of gay couples in a large suburban county on the Missouri border received marriage licenses last month. One couple was married and about 70 others received licenses before the attorney general’s lawsuit resulted in an order for officials there to stop.

The Kansas Supreme Court issued a statement Thursday afternoon announcing that it will begin deliberating the case Monday, but couples and their supporters weren’t waiting to see how that plays out.

Jackie Carter, pastor at First Metropolitan Community Church in Wichita, said a dozen couples applied for or picked up marriage licenses and plan to take part in a mass wedding ceremony Monday at Wichita’s old city courthouse. Dozens of others indicated that they would be there, she said, adding that she wouldn’t be surprised to see 100 to 150 people take part.

But as gay couples gained the right to marry in a handful of places, those in Johnson County — where the legal tangle came to a head after a U.S. Supreme Court decision Oct. 5 — were left to wait. Officials in that suburban Kansas City area said they would not move forward on the issue until the state Supreme Court ruled.

The Kansas case before the U.S. Supreme Court had been closely watched to see whether the justices would change their practice following last week’s appellate ruling that upheld gay marriage bans in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee.

Those cases are headed to the U.S. Supreme Court, meaning the gay marriage issue nationwide could be heard and decided by late June.

The U.S. Supreme Court last month declined to hear cases from three federal appeals courts that had overturned gay marriage bans and several states moved to adopt the practice. Same-sex unions are now legal in 32 states.

In Kansas, couples were pleased to gain new rights Thursday.

“It feels pretty good,” LuAnn Lewis, said, according to The Topeka Capital-Journal, after she picked up a license that would allow her to marry her partner of seven years Monday. “I didn’t think that I’d live long enough to see it happen in this state. I’m glad I had the opportunity to come up here today.”



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


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