Judge voids Kansas same-sex marriage ban as unconstitutional

The Kansas ban on same-sex marriages is unconstitutional in the wake of the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex unions nationwide, a federal judge ruled Monday.

U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree ruled that the provision in the Kansas constitution prohibiting marriage licenses to same-sex couples or recognizing them violates the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. That ruling also voids any Kansas statute, law, policy or practice that bars or fails to recognize such unions.

Kansas law has long defined marriage as between one man and one woman, and voters overwhelmingly supported amending the Kansas Constitution to ban gay marriage in 2005.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas sued the state in October on behalf of two lesbian couples who were denied marriage licenses in Douglas County in northeast Kansas and in Sedgwick County in south-central Kansas. Other same-sex couples later joined the lawsuit seeking various benefits normally granted to married couples.

In his 43-page order, Crabtree stopped short of issuing a permanent injunction in order to give Kansas the opportunity to voluntarily comply, as its attorneys have assured the court they will do. Crabtree wrote that some facts in the court record suggest Kansas officials have not uniformly complied with the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 26 ruling.

Crabtree gave the parties until Sept. 15 to make any further written submissions to the court as to whether the state has made good on the assurances it will comply.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s office e-mailed a brief statement attributed to its spokeswoman Eileen Hawley saying that the state “is complying with the requirements of the recent Supreme Court ruling.”

Jennifer Rapp, the spokeswoman for Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, said in an e-mail that Crabtree’s ruling on Monday was the same declaration that the U.S. Supreme Court made on June 26.

ACLU executive director Micah Kubic said the ruling means that “indeed the U.S. Supreme Court decision matters here in Kansas too, and that the law of the land in all the other 49 states is also the law of the land here in Kansas.”

“It clears any of the remaining barriers that exist to the Supreme Court’s decision being implemented here in the state because the Brownback administration has been very reluctant to do anything but the bare minimum,” Kubic said.

Equality Kansas, which advocates for the rights of same-sex couples, contends it is still getting reports that some couples are having difficulties getting names changed on driver’s licenses or filing joint tax returns, and is still waiting to see how the state handles gay and lesbian couples seeking to care for foster children.

“We look forward to the Brownback administration immediately complying with the Supreme Court ruling in every agency of state government,” said Thomas Witt, the group’s executive director.