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Governor directs Kansas state agencies to not yet recognize same-sex marriages

Governor directs Kansas state agencies to not yet recognize same-sex marriages

TOPEKA, Kan. — Same-sex couples can get married in Kansas, but some state agencies haven’t changed policies that would allow them to do such things as change their names on driver’s licenses.

Gov. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.)
Gov. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.)

Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration will not make any policy changes to recognize same-sex couples while it defends the Kansas gay marriage ban against a federal lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, spokeswoman Eileen Hawley said.

Hawley said all state agencies would “take the necessary legal actions once this issue is resolved.”

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last week that the state can’t enforce its ban on same-sex unions while the ACLU lawsuit proceeds, clearing the way for gay marriages to begin. But amid confusion as the state fights to uphold its ban, some Kansas counties are issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and others are not.

The agencies’ refusal to recognize the marriages will prevent couples from changing their names on their driver’s licenses and could affect such things as state income tax filings, The Wichita Eagle reported.

“There are still cases under appeal in the courts, and the department will not do anything different until those are resolved,” Department of Revenue spokeswoman Jeannine Koranda said Thursday.

A Lawrence gay couple who married this week said they were turned away from a Department of Revenue office when one of them tried to change her last name on her driver’s license.

“All the happiness and everything from getting married, which every woman dreams about, pretty much got stomped. It was horrible,” Merrie Rouse told 6NewsLawrence.

Rouse and her spouse, Alyssa Johnson, said they had no trouble getting an electronic copy of a new Social Security card, but had a much different experience when they went to the driver’s license bureau.

“He threw my paperwork at me and said ‘we don’t accept that. We don’t acknowledge that. You can’t have that done here,'” Rouse said.

Tom Witt, the executive director of gay rights organization Equality Kansas, said it was outrageous for state agencies to refuse to treat legally married same-sex couples as they would treat newly married heterosexual couples.

“These are legal marriages legally performed in the state of Kansas,” Witt said.

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Witt said same-sex couples might have to sue other agencies to receive equal treatment when they file their taxes, for example.

“As long as the state continues to deny people their civil rights, then we’re going to have to litigate it, and that’s really on (Attorney General) Derek Schmidt and Gov. Brownback to decide how much taxpayer money they’re going to burn,” he said.

Schmidt told The Associated Press on Wednesday 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 high court could issue a ruling that would cover the nation by June.

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