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All counties in Kansas now issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples

All counties in Kansas now issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples


Updated: 8:00 p.m. CDT

TOPEKA, Kan. — Same-sex couples could get marriage licenses in all 105 Kansas counties Tuesday, but the state wasn’t yet allowing gay and lesbian spouses to change their last names on driver’s licenses or file joint income tax returns.

Several officials said Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration is still studying the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that declared same-sex marriage legal across the nation. The conservative Republican governor supports Kansas’ ban on gay marriage and has noted repeatedly that voters in 2005 overwhelmingly approved an amendment to the state constitution to reinforce it.

Brownback spokeswoman Eileen Hawley said the state will have to comply with the high court ruling but, “We’re going to carefully review this and what it means, and what the net effect is.”

Tom Witt, executive director of Equality Kansas, said Brownback is pandering to his political base and “playing politics with our lives.” He said the Supreme Court ruling is straightforward in directing states not to discriminate against gays and lesbians.

“How hard can this be? It’s not rocket science,” Witt said. “The excuses coming from the administration are ridiculous and offensive.”

The first marriage license for a same-sex couple in Kansas was issued in October in Johnson County, the state’s most populous county, after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review lower-court orders striking down five states’ bans.

Attorney General Derek Schmidt then asked the Kansas Supreme Court to prevent other licenses from being issued to gay couples, but in November it allowed chief judges in each of the state’s 31 judicial districts to decide. District court clerks in 21 of Kansas’ 31 judicial districts – covering 61 counties – were issuing such licenses before last week’s high court ruling in a case in which a lower court upheld bans in other four states.

As of late Tuesday, same-sex marriage licenses were allowed in all 31 judicial districts, according to interviews with court personnel or orders issued by their chief judges. Also Tuesday, Schmidt notified the Kansas Supreme Court that he was dismissing the case he filed in October because it is moot.

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“Now that the Supreme Court case is out, it’s pretty clear that’s what we’re supposed to do,” said Norton County District Judge Preston Pratt, the chief judge for the six-county 17th District in northwest Kansas.

But spokeswomen for the Department of Revenue and the Department of Health and Environment said their agencies want to be thorough in assessing how their policies could be affected.

Health department spokeswoman Sara Belfry said the biggest issues for the agency are whether it will have to change policies for employees’ health insurance plans and eligibility rules for the Medicaid health program for the needy.

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