'The Roller Coaster Continues': Gay Marriage Temporarily Blocked in Kansas

At a 2013 pro-equality rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. Observers say that conflicting rulings from various federal appeals courts will force the highest court to take up the matter sooner than later. (Photo: Elvert Barnes/flickr/cc)

'The Roller Coaster Continues': Gay Marriage Temporarily Blocked in Kansas

But advocates are hopeful: 'We could very well still have marriages on Wednesday'

Just one day before gay marriage was set to commence in Kansas, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor put on hold (pdf) a federal judge's injunction preventing the state from enforcing its voter-approved ban on same-sex nuptials--in other words, temporarily blocking gay marriages from taking place.

Last Wednesday, Kansas Federal Court Judge Daniel Crabtree overturned the state's ban on marriage for same-sex couples, striking down the 2005 Kansas Marriage Amendment, approved by 70 percent of voters, that defines marriage as a "civil contract between one man and one woman only" in the Kansas Constitution and declares any other definition of marriage as void.

On Monday, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt asked the Supreme Court to intervene, saying he's obligated to do so because voters approved the state constitution's ban on same-sex marriage. In the 106-page filing (pdf), Schmidt argued that marriage is a state issue in which federal courts should not intervene, and that Crabtree's ruling had altered "the status quo" because it interfered with the state supreme court's review.

According to the Kansas City Star, "Schmidt's office filed the request with Sotomayor, who handles such matters from the 10th Circuit. In the request, Schmidt's office said that without a stay of the lower-court order, Kansas and its people would 'suffer severe harm to their sovereign dignity'."

In response, Sotomayor issued the order temporarily blocking the lower-court's order from going into effect.

But, she also directed the American Civil Liberties Union to file a response to Schmidt's request by 4 pm Central time Tuesday, leaving open the possibility that she will reconsider.

In a post at its website titled "The Roller Coaster Continues," the Kansas Equality Coalition wrote: "Given that [Tuesday] is a legal holiday and courts across the state and nation will be closed, she's clearly in a hurry to resolve the Kansas question as quickly as possible. We could very well still have marriages on Wednesday."

At SCOTUSblog, Lyle Denniston offered the following analysis:

This marked the first time that the same-sex marriage issue has returned to the Court since a split developed in the federal appeals courts on the power of states to ban such unions. The Kansas application made heavy use of the decision last Thursday by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, upholding bans in four states in that circuit. The text of the Sixth Circuit decision was filed along with the application; that will put it before the Justices for the first time, but it is not directly under review at this point. Appeals from the Sixth Circuit's decision are likely to be filed later this week.

The filing attempted to show that the Kansas case is different from other cases that the Supreme Court has declined to review and refused to delay, contending that a federal judge's decision striking down that state's ban conflicted with a previous decision by the Kansas Supreme Court, blocking the issuance of marriage licenses.

Marriage equality is winding its way through the courts in states across the country.

Less than 24 hours after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit issued its ruling upholding marriage bans in four states (Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee), legal teams for cases out of all four states announced that they would seek review of the ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court.

And also Monday, ACLU Nebraska announced plans to file a federal lawsuit next week challenging that state's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

According to the Omaha World-Herald, an email sent recently on behalf of ACLU Nebraska executive director Danielle Conrad said the suit will ask for Nebraska to recognize same-sex marriages from other states and to allow same-sex couples to marry in Nebraska.

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