Updated: 11:15 a.m. EDT
Conservative officials in some of the six states where Supreme Court action this week likely cleared the way for same-sex weddings say they won’t issue marriage licenses to gay couples until their hands are forced.
Now, gay rights advocates are preparing to do just that.
Following Monday’s unexpected decision by the high court not to hear appeals over gay marriage, Julia and Regina Johnson went to the Reno County Clerk’s office to apply for a marriage license.
After 16 years and six kids, it was time. They watched as the clerk scratched out the word “man,” explaining that new forms had not yet been printed yet.
But the Johnsons live in Kansas, one of several conservative-leaning states seemingly bound by the high court’s decision where officials are taking a stand and refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Hours after they’d submitted their paperwork, they got a call from the clerk saying their application had been denied.
“It was wow – it sounds surreal,” Julia Johnson said. “It was actually surreal for us.”
Reno County Chief Judge Patricia Macke Dick later said she had no choice but to deny their license because Kansas’ same-sex marriage ban, specifically, had not been overturned. The only related lawsuit now in Kansas courts is one filed by two couples who married in other states and sued Kansas over tax treatment. Their case is being heard next month.
Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt noted that, to date, no court has squarely decided whether the Kansas Constitution’s prohibition of same-sex marriage is invalid and that the state will deal with any litigation when it comes. Wyoming and South Carolina are taking similar stands.
“The people have spoken on this,” said Kansas’ Republican governor, Sam Brownback, who is fighting a close re-election battle in which he needs conservative support.
“I don’t know how much more you can bolster it than to have a vote of the people to put in the constitution that marriage is the union of a man and a woman,” he said.
Wyoming’s Republican governor, Matt Mead, said the state will defend its constitution’s definition of marriage as permissible only between a man and woman. He said he doesn’t think the Supreme Court’s action this week applies to a Wyoming case challenging that definition, which is set for a hearing in December.
An attorney for gay rights group Wyoming Equality, which is one of the plaintiffs, took issue with Mead’s comment that the Supreme Court action had no impact on the state case.