News (USA)

Judge orders Kansas county to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples

Judge orders Kansas county to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples

OLATHE, Kan. — A judge in Kansas’ most populous county ordered it Wednesday to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, following actions earlier this week by the U.S. Supreme Court.

KansasJohnson County Chief District Judge Kevin Moriarty said his order was meant to avoid confusion about the legal climate surrounding same-sex marriages. The county is home to affluent Kansas City suburbs, some of which are conservative political strongholds.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear appeals from five states seeking to preserve their bans on gay marriage. One of them was Utah, which is in the same federal appeals court circuit as Kansas.

The Kansas Constitution has banned gay marriage since 2005, but Moriarty said the prohibition is similar or identical to gay marriage bans in other states that have been struck down.

“Although no federal court has been asked directly to address the provisions of state statutory or constitutional provisions, our district court clerks and judges are entitled to be free of any ambiguity in the administration of justice and the issuance of marriage licenses,” Moriarty wrote.

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Gay couples who’ve sought marriage licenses in other counties this week have been turned away. They included Shawnee County, in northeast Kansas, and Sedgwick and Reno counties, in south-central Kansas. Kansas law also imposes a three-day waiting period to get married.

The Kansas Supreme Court has yet to give district courts across the state any guidance, and spokeswoman Lisa Taylor said Wednesday that the high court had not seen Moriarty’s order.

Gov. Sam Brownback, a conservative Republican supporting the gay-marriage ban, said Tuesday that the state ought to defend it in court because it the constitutional provision was enacted through a statewide vote. The American Civil Liberties Union expects to file a federal lawsuit to block enforcement of the ban.

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