ACLU seeks court order to force Kansas to allow same-sex marriages


TOPEKA, Kan. — The American Civil Liberties Union asked a federal court to order Kansas to allow same-sex couples to wed while the group’s lawsuit against the state constitution’s gay-marriage ban is under review.

Kansas-flagThe group argued in its filing in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kansas, that it is likely to prevail in the lawsuit. It also said denying the right to marry even for a short period will do irreparable harm to the two lesbian couples represented by the ACLU in the case.

The group wants to immediately block the state from enforcing its gay marriage ban.

Kansas voters overwhelmingly approved an amendment to the state constitution in 2005 to preserve a longstanding policy against gay marriage – and to deny same-sex couples any “rights and incidents” associated with marriage. But the U.S. Supreme Court declined last week to hear appeals from five states seeking to preserve gay marriage bans, including Oklahoma and Utah, which are in the same federal appeals court circuit as Kansas.

Doug Bonney, the legal director of the ACLU’s Kansas chapter, said federal appeals court rulings against the Oklahoma and Utah gay-marriage bans are precedents that doom Kansas’ prohibition.

“There’s almost no question in my mind,” he said.

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt’s spokeswoman did not immediately return telephone and email messages seeking comment.

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The ACLU sued county clerks – responsible for issuing marriage licenses – on behalf of couples in Wichita and the Douglas County town of Lecompton who unsuccessfully sought marriage licenses last week. Also named is the secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, which provides license forms and maintains copies of marriage certificates.

Before last week, there was no state or federal court lawsuit over Kansas’ ban. But in Johnson County, the state’s most populous county, the chief district judge ordered licenses to be issued to same-sex couples. Two women obtained one and quickly wed Friday.

Schmidt then filed a petition with the Kansas Supreme Court, which temporarily blocked new licenses to gay couples and scheduled a Nov. 6 hearing. The ACLU filed its separate federal lawsuit only hours later.

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