Kansas Same Sex Marriage Battle Far From Over

By John Celock

While the U.S. Supreme Court has lifted a stay and is allowing same sex marriages to go forward in parts of Kansas, the battle to allow in all of the state’s 105 counties continues.

Advocates say they are preparing to press forward with a state Supreme Court case next week to have all counties issue same sex marriage licenses, in compliance with a federal court order. Opponents say they are confident they can prevail if the full U.S. Supreme Court hears a case banning same sex marriage nationally. In addition battle lines are being drawn in the state Legislature for a revisit of the state’s controversial religious freedom bill next year.

“I have a feeling they will vacate the stay. My speculation is they will direct the district court to comply with the federal courts,” Tom Witt, the executive director of the Kansas Equality Coalition told The Celock Report of where he sees the state Supreme Court going next week.

Witt laid blame with state Attorney General Derek Schmidt (R) for the ruling being enforced differently across the state. He said that Schmidt should have put forward clearer applications of the decision by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor to lift a stay on same sex marriage applications in the state following rulings from the federal appeals courts and state judges. Sotomayor lifted her stay earlier this week but county governments across the state have taken different approaches based on other pending cases.

Schmidt has argued that his office cannot push the same sex marriages forward and that only a court could make the order uniform across the state.

Same sex marriage has gained steam in Kansas since the U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up a case on the subject and let a U.S Court of Appeals ruling vacating other state laws stand. Kansas has a state constitutional ban on same sex marriage that would be overruled under the present judicial actions.

Gov. Sam Brownback (R) has said the state will fight to keep the ban in the state constitution.

Terry Fox, the pastor of Summit Church in Wichita and an architect of the same sex marriage ban in Kansas, told The Celock Report that he is optimistic that the Supreme Court will take a case regarding same sex marriage bans nationally. At the same time he believes that while his side “has a shot” it will be a narrow 5-4 vote to either allow or ban same sex marriages.

“It will be more on state’s rights more than morality,” Fox said.
Witt disagrees with Fox that the Supreme Court will take up the case.

“He’s a little delusional if he thinks they’ll take that up,” he said.

At the same time, Fox said that he and his allies plan on heading to Topeka in January to get lawmakers to pass a religious freedom bill that he said would not force private business owners who object to same sex marriage to be forced to provide services for same sex weddings.

A similar bill was proposed earlier this year but died after opponents said that the wording would allow for discrimination against the LGBT population for any business, along with allowing government, including police to deny service to the LGBT population. Fox said that supporters are working to rewrite the bill to tailor it to a narrow set of services, which was first proposed when the bill died this year.

Witt said that he and his allies are planning to fight to block the bill again this year, arguing that the bill is discriminatory in nature.

“The bill doesn’t have anything to do with protection. It is about denying business and government services to those in same sex relationships,” Witt said. “It is the 21st century version of Jim Crow. We beat it last year and we’ll beat it this year.”

Fox also said that he and his allies are in the process of forming plans on legislation to provide protections for church and clergy who do not want to participate in same sex marriages. Similar legislation has been passed in states that have legalized same sex marriage. A clergy provision was a key negotiating point in passing New York’s same sex marriage law in 2011.

Fox noted that with action on both sides, the issue will remain a top one when Kansas lawmakers reconvene in January.

“It’s going to be very interesting here in Kansas,” he said.

Witt said that he is prepared to also fight for increased discrimination bans in state and local law next year. Earlier this year, Topeka city officials passed an LGBT discrimination ban for the city.

“We will fight for the rights of the LGBT population in the state,” Witt said. “This is about people’s civil rights. This is about our rights and we’ll fight for them.”