- Associated Press - Friday, June 26, 2015

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling declaring that gay couples have a right to marry anywhere in the country is expected to bring a quick resolution to a similar case over a Kansas ban that is still before a lower federal court.

The American Civil Liberties Union had filed a lawsuit 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. U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree issued a preliminary ruling in that case that gay couples could marry in Kansas, but not all counties have been issuing the licenses.

Crabtree ruled in November that the state couldn’t enforce the ban while the lawsuit was heard.

“For us, it means that we win,” said Doug Bonney, legal director for the ACLU’s chapter in Kansas.

Crabtree could rule at any time now on pending motions seeking a summary ruling that permanently bars the state from enforcing laws and a voter-approved provision banning same-sex marriage. The ACLU said Friday’s Supreme Court ruling “should make it easier for him to do so.”

A one-day trial on the lawsuit previously was set for November. Bonney said the case could be resolved more quickly if the state would “admit defeat” and drop its defense of the state’s ban.

Both Gov. Sam Brownback and Attorney General Derek Schmidt said the state will study the ruling further before making any moves in the lawsuit.

Equality Kansas Executive Director Tom Witt said Friday that he’s hoping that Schmidt will “do the right thing.” Witt said he’s happy about the ruling.

“Today we are celebrating and tomorrow we will go back to work,” said Kerry Wilks, one of the plaintiffs challenging the Kansas ban.

Gay and lesbian couples in Kansas still face discrimination, she said, noting it is legal in the state to fire a person for getting married.

Wilks said Brownback and Schmidt should stop pushing their “private agendas” and let equality move forward. Wilks and Donna DiTrani consider themselves married, but will likely now have another ceremony to make it legal.

DiTrani said it is important to her that people recognize Wilks as her wife, and not just as her partner.

The Supreme Court ruling doesn’t “just mean something about marriage,” said Jackie Carter, pastor at First Metropolitan Community Church in Wichita. “It means there is a ruling about people being more equal now.”

Wilks added, “We are people. It is not just a political issue for us. And so to have that affirmation - not only through the Supreme Court, but also on a very personal level - that we matter is wonderful.”

Brownback has been a strong supporter of the state’s ban on gay marriage. Voters approved an amendment to the Kansas Constitution in 2005 to reinforce that policy.

“Activist courts should not overrule the people of this state, who have clearly supported the Kansas Constitution’s definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman,” Brownback said in a statement.

Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle said she’s disappointed by the Supreme Court decision on gay marriage and that it will require legislators to examine state laws protecting religious freedom. The Wichita Republican said legislators need to make sure that Kansas residents who personally oppose gay marriage are not required to perform same-sex weddings or participate in them.

Lawmakers considered such a measure last year, but it drew strong protests from gay rights advocates and some business leaders and stalled in the Senate.

Supporters of last year’s measure said it would have protected individuals and businesses opposed to gay marriage. But critics said the measure was written so broadly that it would have allowed widespread discrimination against gays and lesbians.


Hegeman reported from Wichita.

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