TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court debated Monday whether to authorize same-sex marriage licenses as gay couples made their own plans following favorable federal court rulings.
The court has two substitutes participating in its discussions about allowing gay marriage in the state.
The Kansas court was reviewing a petition from state Attorney General Derek Schmidt, hoping to block marriage licenses for same-sex couples until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on whether the state’s ban on gay marriage is constitutional. The court discussed the case in a closed meeting, and spokeswoman Lisa Taylor couldn’t say when it would issue a ruling.
But the federal courts already have stepped in because of a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of two lesbian couples denied licenses in Douglas and Sedgwick counties. The U.S. Supreme Court last week refused to allow Kansas to enforce its gay-marriage ban while the federal case moves forward, and gay couples have obtained licenses in at least a handful of the state’s 105 counties.
Court spokeswoman Lisa Taylor said Monday that retired Douglas County District Judge Michael Malone and retiring Linn County District Judge Richard Smith are sitting with the court.
The First Metropolitan Community Church in Wichita planned a wedding ceremony Monday evening for multiple gay couples outside the old Sedgwick County courthouse, though it was not sure how many would participate.
Schmidt, a Republican just re-elected with 67 percent of the vote, argues that he’s obligated to defend the state’s gay marriage ban because voters overwhelmingly approved it for the state constitution in 2005.
The attorney general also says the U.S. Supreme Court order applies only in Douglas and Sedgwick counties because no other counties’ court clerks were sued. The ACLU argues it applies statewide.
Schmidt filed his petition with the Kansas Supreme Court last month after the chief district judge in Johnson County, the state’s most populous county, directing that marriage licenses be issued to same-sex couples.
A lesbian couple received a marriage license there and quickly wed, but the Kansas Supreme Court blocked further licenses. In Kansas, district court clerks issue marriage licenses after a mandatory three-day waiting period.
Gay couples in Kansas began seeking licenses after the U.S. Supreme Court refused Oct. 6 to hear appeals from five other states seeking to preserve gay-marriage bans following adverse federal appeals court decisions. The ACLU filed its federal lawsuit as Schmidt was challenging the order in Johnson County.
The Kansas Supreme Court has seven members, but one spot is vacant because the new Justice Caleb Stegall doesn’t take his seat until Dec. 5. Malone is taking his spot.
Justice Lee Johnson removed himself from the case, without stating a reason. Smith is filling in for him.
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