We did not think the idea, let alone the legality, of same-sex marriages in Kansas would happen without a fight. But we were hopeful the U.S. Supreme Court's decision last week to not take on multiple cases in which various states' bans were declared unconstitutional sent a rather direct message: Banning same-sex marriages is unconstitutional.
We expected the grumbling about sanctity of marriage between a man and woman, the assault on the institution, and various religious dogma to come from many state and federal office-holders in the Sunflower State. They did not disappoint.
But if gay and lesbian couples thought they could just march down to the county courthouse and, after waiting the same three days straight couples are required, get married -- it turns out it depends on where you live.
In Johnson County, two Olathe women received their marriage license Friday morning, becoming the first same-sex couple to marry in Kansas.
"We've just been waiting for Kansas to get on board with marriage equality," one of the women told The Kansas City Star after the ceremony.
Chief District Judge Kevin Moriarty of Johnson County, who issued the license to Kelli and Angela (their last names were not reported), appeared to understand even though the nation's highest court did not rule specifically on the Kansas law it did let stand multiple rulings that said gay marriage bans are unconstitutional. As of Thursday, 42 applications for same-sex marriages had been submitted in Johnson County.
Two men in Saline County, on the other hand, were not even allowed to fill out an application. Saline County District Court Clerk Teresa Drane told The Salina Journal she had no basis for changing the court's policy of denying applications to same-sex couples.
"(W)e weren't even allowed to see the application," one of the men said.
That man, Richard Buck, happens to be an attorney in Salina. He and his partner are considering a federal lawsuit.
Reno County reportedly was issuing applications, although no marriage licenses have been issued. Douglas and Wyandotte counties weren't taking applications.
Ellis, Gove, Trego and Rooks counties won't be issuing any marriage licenses to same-sex couples for awhile.
"The court performs an administrative function when it issues a marriage license," 23rd Judicial District Chief Judge Ed Bouker wrote in an administrative order filed Thursday. "In exercising its administrative functions, the court has a different role than it does when it rules on a petition that has been filed as a contested legal matter. The court's role in administrative matters is to apply and follow the existing laws of the state of Kansas."
On Friday, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt filed suit asking the Kansas Supreme Court "to provide clarity on what procedure state district courts must use in handling applications for marriage licenses by same-sex couples," according to a statement from his office. The suit requests the license issued to Kelli and Angela in Johnson County to be set aside.
"On Wednesday afternoon, the Chief Judge of the District Court of Johnson County declared a provision of the Kansas Constitution invalid and ordered the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples in violation of Kansas law as it currently exists," Schmidt said. "No lawsuit was pending that asked the judge to evaluate current Kansas law, and there was no opportunity for the State of Kansas or anybody else to challenge or even have input into the Judge's administrative order before it was issued. This is not a proper way to determine whether a provision of the Kansas Constitution remains in force and effect."
Whether proper or not, the Kansas Supreme Court now has a case to work with. As the justices weigh the merits of what the attorney general is asking, they can look at Kelli and Angela. This couple has a marriage license, and the only thing Schmidt is relying on has been found unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. The boilerplate language used in red states throughout the country, including Kansas, is what the nation's highest court wouldn't waste the time to examine. It doesn't pass muster.
Congratulations, Kelli and Angela. The same to Judge Moriarity. Marriage equality has arrived in Kansas. There is just one more technical hurdle to cross, even if it is past the finish line.
Editorial by Patrick Lowry