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ACLU revises Kansas same-sex marriage lawsuit to raise new claims

ACLU revises Kansas same-sex marriage lawsuit to raise new claims
Kansas WICHITA, Kan. — The American Civil Liberties Union revised on Wednesday its lawsuit over gay marriage in Kansas to include claims that the state is refusing to recognize unions performed in Kansas and other states. The group’s amended complaint seeks to force the state to recognize same-sex marriages for spousal health insurance benefits, state tax filing purposes and driver’s license name changes. The U.S. Supreme Court earlier this month blocked Kansas from enforcing its ban on same-sex marriages while the lawsuit proceeds in federal court. Same-sex couples in Kansas have since been marrying in some but not all of the state’s 105 counties. “We are very disappointed the state has continued to play this obstruction game,” ACLU attorney Doug Bonney said. “The time is here to recognize the marriages as valid and lawful just like any other marriage. ” The ACLU initially sued Kansas Department of Health and Environment Secretary Robert Moser and court officials in two counties; the latest filing adds officials with the Kansas Department of Revenue and its Division of Vehicles and KDHE’s director of the state employee health plan, Mike Michael. Jennifer Rapp, the spokeswoman for the Kansas Attorney General’s Office, said the office does not represent the new defendants and had no new comment.

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Attorney General Derek Schmidt, who has vowed to uphold the state’s ban on same-sex nuptials, has said in the past that his vigorous defense of the state’s gay marriage ban is designed to get a final decision from the U.S. Supreme Court. The Department of Revenue, which also oversees the motor vehicle division, declined to comment on the pending litigation. KDHE did not immediately return phone messages seeking comment. Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration has said that it will not make any policy changes to recognize same-sex couples…

Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration has said that it will not make any policy changes to recognize same-sex couples while it defends the Kansas gay marriage ban and that all state agencies would take whatever actions are needed once the issue is resolved. The governor’s spokeswoman did not immediately return an email seeking comment on the latest filing.

Bonney said the ACLU plans to file another motion, likely next week, asking U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree to order state agencies to recognize same-sex marriages while the lawsuit itself plays out in federal court.

Schmidt pursued and lost a separate case before the Kansas Supreme Court over a decision by a judge in Johnson County, the state’s most populous, to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The Kansas court allowed gay marriages to go forward there but didn’t make a definitive ruling about the rest of the state. Local chief judges are left to decide whether district court clerks issue marriage licenses to gay couples.

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The initial ACLU lawsuit was filed on behalf of two couples who were denied a marriage license in two Kansas counties. The amended lawsuit now adds three more couples to the lawsuit who whose marriages were not recognized by state agencies.

One of the couples, James Peters and Gary Mohrman of Lawrence, have been in a relationship for more than 30 years. They were married in Iowa in 2010.

Peters, an employee of the University of Kansas joined the lawsuit over the refusal of the state to allow his spouse to get health insurance with him through the Kansas State Employee Health Plan. They were also unable to file state income tax returns as a married couple, even though they were able to do so on federal returns.

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