- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 8, 2014

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) - A judge on Wednesday cleared the way for what could be the first gay marriage in Kansas, ordering the state’s most populous county to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples following actions earlier this week by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Johnson County Chief District Judge Kevin Moriarty said his order for the court’s clerks and judges was meant to avoid confusion about the legal climate surrounding same-sex marriages. The county is home to affluent Kansas City suburbs, some of which are Republican strongholds.

The first same-sex couple in Johnson County to seek a license after Moriarty’s order was Angela Schaefer, 31, and Jennifer Schaeffer, 28, of Gardner, who’ve been together nine years and have a 9-month-old son. They are due to obtain their license Tuesday, after the weekend and the Columbus Day holiday Monday. In Kansas, district court clerks’ offices issue marriage licenses, and state law imposes a three-day waiting period.

Angela Schaefer said she believes getting married will ensure that she has full parental rights to their son. Jennifer Schaefer is the child’s biological mother and took Angela’s last name in 2012.

“I don’t think this is the end of the fight,” Angela Schaefer said. “I’ve seen stuff like this get reversed quickly. I think this is the beginning of a new chapter, but I still think there is a little bit of fight left.”

Moriarty’s order came after the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear appeals from five states seeking to preserve their bans on gay marriage. One of them was Utah, which is in the same federal appeals court circuit as Kansas.

The Kansas Constitution has banned gay marriage since 2005, but Moriarty said the prohibition is similar or identical to gay marriage bans in other states that have been struck down.

“Although no federal court has been asked directly to address the provisions of state statutory or constitutional provisions, our district court clerks and judges are entitled to be free of any ambiguity in the administration of justice and the issuance of marriage licenses,” Moriarty wrote.

A spokeswoman for Attorney General Derek Schmidt did not return telephone or email messages seeking comment.

Gay couples who’ve sought marriage licenses in other counties this week have been turned away. They included Shawnee County, in northeast Kansas, and Sedgwick and Reno counties, in south-central Kansas. The American Civil Liberties Union expects to file a federal lawsuit to block enforcement of the ban.

The Kansas Supreme Court, which oversees the state’s judicial branch, has not given district courts any guidance. Spokeswoman Lisa Taylor said the high court doesn’t decide legal questions without a case before it, and there’s also been no federal court ruling directly on the Kansas gay-marriage ban.

“District judges will have to determine on their own how they address this issue,” Taylor said.

Gov. Sam Brownback, a conservative Republican who is in a tight race for re-election, said Tuesday that the state ought to defend it in court. Democratic gubernatorial challenger Paul Davis’ spokesman has said only that, “Moving forward, this issue will likely be determined by the courts,” and Davis will “focus on priorities that unite Kansans.”


AP Political Writer John Hanna contributed to this report from Topeka.

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