Judge to monitor Kansas’ actions on gay marriage for three years

Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge told Kansas on Friday that for three more years he will monitor its compliance with the U.S. Supreme Court‘s historic decision legalizing gay marriage across the nation.

U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree issued a permanent injunction barring the state from treating same-sex couples differently than opposite-sex couples in allowing them to marry or extending “other rights, protections, obligations or benefits of marriage” to them.

“It’s a shame that the court had to spell this out,” said Joshua Block, a senior attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, a lawyer involved in the lawsuit that led to the order.

Spokeswoman Jennifer Rapp said Attorney General Derek Schmidt advises agencies to fully comply with the U.S. Supreme Court decision and would do so without Crabtree’s order.

“It is disappointing the federal court thinks Kansas judicial and executive branch personnel require ongoing federal supervision,” she said in an email.

Crabtree ruled in a lawsuit filed in 2014 by five gay and lesbian couples against officials in the state’s health and revenue departments, as well as two local court clerks. The health department maintains marriage and birth records, while the Department of Revenue handles tax filings and issues driver’s licenses.

Kansas law already barred gay marriage when the state’s voters in 2005 approved an amendment to the state constitution to reinforce the ban. The amendment declared that only heterosexual couples were entitled to “the rights or incidents of marriage.”

The U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision on gay marriage last year, and two months later Crabtree declared the state’s ban unconstitutional. But he held off on issuing a permanent order to see how fully the state complied.

Republican Gov. Sam Brownback and many members of the GOP-dominated Legislature strongly supported the ban and have been vocal critics of the Supreme Court’s order. The Kansas Republican Party’s platform declares that “traditional marriage is the foundation of society.”

Crabtree wrote in his 33-page order that while the state took steps to follow the Supreme Court ruling, it did not comply fully and its conduct “raises doubts about the reliability” of its efforts. His decision to continue monitoring Kansas’ actions means aggrieved couples will not have to file new lawsuits — resolving their complaints far more quickly.

The judge specifically cited the state’s handling of birth certificates for children conceived through artificial insemination for same-sex couples. Crabtree said one couple initially faced additional steps not required of opposite-sex couples to get both names listed as parents and that later officials gave conflicting information about a change in the department’s practices.

Block said similar issues have arisen in Florida, Indiana, Nebraska and Utah. But he and Mark Johnson, a Kansas City, Kansas, attorney also representing the couples, said Crabtree’s injunction covers all of state government and is clear in declaring that same-sex couples have to be treated the same as opposite-sex couples.

“The judge left no wiggle room,” Johnson said.

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