clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Same-sex marriages are legal in Kansas. But state agencies refuse to acknowledge them.

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback refuses to recognize same-sex couples' marriages.
Kansas Governor Sam Brownback refuses to recognize same-sex couples' marriages.
Andrew Burton/Getty Images
  1. Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback's administration is refusing to recognize same-sex marriages in Kansas until the issue works through all court procedures and appeals, the Associated Press reported.
  2. The refusal of recognition means state agencies won't accommodate legally married same-sex couples — couples won't be able to change their names on driver's licenses, and they might not be able to jointly file for state taxes.
  3. Same-sex marriage is currently legal in Kansas. The US Supreme Court paved the way to marriage equality in the state by refusing to stay a federal court decision that struck down a same-sex marriage ban.

In other states, agencies are complying with court orders

Courts have struck down same-sex marriage bans in dozens of states. In many of these states, officials have disagreed with the rulings — but they've treated them, as the American judicial system requires, as the law of the land and granted gay and lesbian couples full marriage rights.

Kansas officials are trying to argue that the federal court's preliminary injunction only requires the agency named in the lawsuit — the Department of Health and Environment — to recognize same-sex marriages. But according to Josh Block of the ACLU, which is involved in same-sex marriage litigation against Kansas officials, that isn't how these cases are traditionally interpreted. State officials and agencies named in lawsuits are supposed to act as stand-ins for the rest of the state government, since the Eleventh Amendment bars people from suing entire states.

Block said the state could change its stance once the court issues a full ruling instead of a preliminary injunction, although preliminary injunctions are supposed to be treated as seriously as any other court order.

Kansas officials also argued to the Wichita Eagle that the court order only applies to a few counties, not the whole state. Couples have been marrying in 19 of 105 counties across the state, according to Tom Witt of LGBT rights group Equality Kansas. But until Kansas state agencies begin recognizing the marriages, those couples won't have the full rights traditionally protected by the unions — at least without more litigation.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for Vox Recommends

Get curated picks of the best Vox journalism to read, watch, and listen to every week, from our editors.