Same-sex marriage still in limbo in Kansas in all but one county

Angela Schaefer, left, and partner, Jennifer Schaefer hold an application for a marriage license at the clerk's office at the Johnson County Courthouse in Olathe, Kan., Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2014. They are due to obtain their license Tuesday, after the weekend and the Columbus Day holiday Monday. Tammy Ljungblad, AP

Angela Schaefer, left, and partner, Jennifer Schaefer hold an application for a marriage license at the clerk's office at the Johnson County Courthouse in Olathe, Kan., Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2014. They are due to obtain their license Tuesday, after the weekend and the Columbus Day holiday Monday.Tammy Ljungblad, AP

Angela Schaefer, left, and partner, Jennifer Schaefer hold an application for a marriage license at the clerk’s office at the Johnson County Courthouse in Olathe, Kan., Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2014. They are due to obtain their license Tuesday, after the weekend and the Columbus Day holiday Monday. Kansas has a three-day waiting period before licenses can be granted.

TOPEKA, Kan. — Wedding plans of gay couples across Kansas were in limbo Thursday, with all but one of the state’s 105 counties refusing to issue marriage licenses and the American Civil Liberties Union preparing to sue in a bid to overturn the state’s ban on same-sex unions.

Couples began showing up at county marriage license offices around the state Monday after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear appeals from five states seeking to preserve their bans on gay marriage.

Because Kansas is in the same federal appeals court district affected by the high court move, same-sex couples across the state hoped they soon would be able to marry. But without a direct legal challenge that results in an overturn of the state’s ban, judges were largely reluctant Thursday to move on their own.

So far, only Johnson County has announced plans to issue licenses to gay couples. The county could be poised to issue the state’s first same-sex marriage license as soon as Friday, two days after Chief District Judge Kevin Moriarty ruled the county could no longer deny the applications.

Kansas has a three-day waiting period before licenses can be granted, but although Moriarty issued his ruling Wednesday, the county accepted one application Tuesday from a same-sex couple, said Sandy McCurdy, the county’s court clerk.

By late Thursday afternoon, the county had accepted 42 applications.

Some counties initially refused to even hand out marriage license paperwork to same-sex couples until the lawyer for the Kansas Office of Judicial Administration sent an email Tuesday to chief judges suggesting that counties accept the applications and noted that litigation was likely.

“My recommendation is that judges, not clerks, make the decision to grant or deny a marriage license under existing Kansas law, rather than requiring a district court clerk to do so and then be required to defend a civil lawsuit,” said the email from Martha Coffman.

Most counties appeared to be taking the advice. A judge in south-central Kansas’ Cowley County issued an order Thursday saying that county would not issue same-sex marriage licenses at this point, but would hold on to applications for six months. If the law changes during that time, licenses would be approved.

Wyandotte County was accepting applications, but Chief Judge Wayne Lampson filed his first order rejecting a same-sex marriage application Thursday. Lampson wrote that Danen Haston and Roger Brown could re-apply if a court overturns the ban.

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