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Gay couples begin marrying in Kansas after US Supreme Court decision

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by Nathan Vickers, DeAnn Smith

Shelly Walston (l) and Mallory Rine (r) pick up their marriage license application from records clerk Glenda McLin at the Sedgwick County Courthouse in Wichita, Kansas. Photo: AP Photo/The Wichita Eagle, Mike Hutmacher
Shelly Walston (l) and Mallory Rine (r) pick up their marriage license application from records clerk Glenda McLin at the Sedgwick County Courthouse in Wichita, Kansas.
Photo: AP Photo/The Wichita Eagle, Mike Hutmacher

Lawrence, KS (KCTV) — Gay couples in some Kansas counties were able to tie the knot legally on Thursday after a U.S. Supreme Court decision while other counties refused to marriage licenses to same-sex couples until the Kansas Supreme Court rules on the issue.

In some county offices, judges granted marriage licenses and waived the state’s three-day waiting period after the U.S. Supreme Court voted 7-2 not to stop same-sex unions in Kansas. Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and Derek Schmidt, both Republicans, vowed to fight the marriages. Voters in 2005 overwhelmingly approved the gay marriage ban.

Despite a legal tangle involving the state Supreme Court, gay couples moved ahead with wedding plans as officials gave out marriage applications and others granted licenses. In one instance, a lesbian couple married in front of the courthouse in Manhattan, Kansas, home of Kansas State University.

A judge planned to marry a couple in the Douglas County courthouse after the offices close on Thursday. Officials in Douglas County waived the three-day waiting period. Seven couples got married while others got their license but are planning ceremonies before friends and family members.

Reflecting the change, the clerk printed up new licenses that changed the form from saying “man and woman” to stating “Party A and Party B.”

Anne Steward and her partner of 12 years have waited a long time to get married.

“We’ve just been waiting for the domino effect within the states and here we are. I’m just really happy to be here,” Steward said.

They plan to hold their ceremony on Friday, and said this is a very happy time.

“It’s been superb. It’s been very smooth and it’s been lovely,” Steward said. “It just helps those of us who want to be married and have the same rights that everyone else.”

Schmidt said a separate challenge before the state Supreme Court should prevent gay marriage in all but Douglas and Sedgwick counties, which were home to cases covered in the ruling from the nation’s high court. But as couples beyond those counties picked up marriage licenses Thursday, Schmidt’s office did not issue a new statement or respond to questions about the latest developments.

Officials in Johnson County refused to grant licenses until the Kansas Supreme Court sorts out the issue. The challenge before the state court came in part after a couple was married in Johnson County. In addition, about 70 couples received licenses before Schmidt got a court order to halt the proceedings.

Some couples on Thursday traveled from Johnson County to Douglas County to get married there. After couples receive a marriage license, they have six months to get married.

After the high court last month declined to hear cases from three federal appeals courts that had overturned gay marriage bans, several states moved to adopt the practice, and same-sex unions are now legal in 32 states. However, an Ohio-based appeals court last week ruled in favor of gay marriage bans in Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee and Michigan. That means the U.S. Supreme Court will likely have to sort out the differences between the federal appellate courts.

In Kansas, couples were pleased to gain new rights Thursday with some crying tears of joy.

“It feels pretty good,” LuAnn Lewis, said, according to The Topeka Capital-Journal, after she picked up a license that would allow her to marry her partner of seven years Monday. “I didn’t think that I’d live long enough to see it happen in this state. I’m glad I had the opportunity to come up here today.”

The Roman Catholic Bishops of Kansas issued a statement saying that “well-intentioned, conscientious members of the legislatures and judiciary” cannot alter the reality that marriage is a natural order instituted by God. They said they hope that the U.S. Supreme Court will ultimately recognize marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman.

“We pray for a restoration of respect for the true meaning of marriage in our country,” the four bishops wrote. “We pray that those individuals who experience same-sex attraction find comfort in the love of God as they strive to live in accordance with God’s will. Finally, we pray for those faithful Christians who will undoubtedly face criticism, ostracism and even persecution in the coming years for their steadfast adherence to the gospel’s timeless teaching on human sexuality.”

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