WICHITA, Kan. A decision Monday by the U.S. Supreme Court denying appeals from five states seeking to prohibit same-sex marriages is expected to clear the way for the unions in Kansas — but it could take more legal wrangling before that happens in the conservative state.
Without commenting, the nation's highest court brought an end to delays in gay marriage in Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin, effectively making it legal in 30 states. Couples in six other states — Colorado, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wyoming — should be able to get married soon, as those states would be bound by the appellate rulings that earlier had been put on hold.
"Marriage equality is coming to Kansas," said Thomas Witt, executive director of the gay rights group Equality Kansas. "It may not be this morning, but it may be another morning very soon."
Some same-sex couples who applied for marriage licenses on Monday were turned away.
Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said in a written statement that his office would deal with any litigation challenging the state's constitutional ban on gay marriage "as it may come." He said his office is closely watching litigation in other federal appeals courts that could bring the issue before the Supreme Court again.
"Today's unexpected and disappointing decision to avoid the issue ensures that an already uncertain legal situation for Kansas and many other states will become even more so," Schmidt said. "It is likely the Supreme Court eventually will have to decide this question, but until then this delay is sure to generate more litigation and more uncertainty, both for defenders of traditional marriage and for same-sex couples."
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback issued a statement saying he swore an oath to support the state constitution.
"An overwhelming majority of Kansas voters amended the Constitution to include a definition of marriage as one man and one woman. Activist judges should not overrule the people of Kansas," Brownback said.
The Kansas Supreme Court has given district court clerks no guidance on what to do with requests from gay couples for marriage licenses. The court "does not decide questions of law until they are brought before the court," spokeswoman Lisa Taylor said.
The 10th Circuit Court's decision affects all states in that circuit, including Kansas, said Doug Bonney, chief counsel and legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas and Western Missouri. The ACLU now plans to seek plaintiffs for a lawsuit in federal court, and will likely ask for a preliminary injunction blocking the Kansas law, Bonney said.
Kerry Wilks and Donna DiTrani went to the Sedgwick County Courthouse to get a marriage license Monday. The couple, who had a civil union two years ago, was refused the paperwork to get a license. Wilks said she didn't want to get married elsewhere.
"It made me angry to think I would have to go to another state to practice a basic civil liberty," Wilks said. "It made me angry to think that I would come back and the marriage would not be recognized."
Aimee McCarter and Jennifer Kozushko said outside the courthouse they were disappointed that they couldn't get a license. The two are trying to adopt three children and said a legally recognized marriage would be helpful.
Couples trying to get marriage licenses in Sedgwick County were repeatedly told that the county wasn't handing out applications to same-sex couples, and that they could consult a private attorney if they wished.