County issues 1st same-sex marriage license
For all the voices in the discussion and debate on marriage equality, the decision to allow Marion’s first wedding of a same-sex couple came down to one person, that being the chief justice of the district court, Mike Powers.
Kaci Miller and Amanda Horacek became the first same-sex couple to marry in Marion County on Nov. 13, the same day Powers signed an administrative order to allow same-sex couples to wed.
Powers said issuing the license was coincidence, and “had nothing to do with the order” being handed down. Powers consulted the other seven justices in the district before handing down the order.
“Not all (district judges) are of the same philosophical opinion with regard to same-sex marriage, but all eight of them agree unanimously that that is what the law is at this point in time,” Powers said.
The decision comes in the wake of a ruling in a United States District Court case, Marie vs. Moser, which ruled the same-sex marriage ban in Kansas unconstitutional, according to Powers’ administrative order.
“This Court is bound to follow the rulings of that case,” the order said.
With an appeal of the ruling pending, state officials requested a stay on the ban, which the United States Supreme Court denied Nov. 12. Powers’ order came down the following day.
“In this particular case, we’ve been left with a very cloudy situation,” Powers said. “Hopefully down the road there’ll be a clear decision made by a higher level, but right now it’s left to each judicial district.”
Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt filed a lawsuit against a district chief justice in Johnson County, who ruled that same-sex marriages should be allowed. The decision of the justice, Kevin Moriarty, came in the wake of appeals to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals being denied, thus leaving a precedent of same-sex marriage bans as unconstitutional.Schmidt has said he believes the ruling of Marie vs. Moser should only affect Douglas and Sedgwick counties.
“The attorney general’s doing what he feels he has to do and I have no criticism of the attorney general whatsoever on that,” Powers said. “But we’re interpreting that federal court ruling and acting in accordance with it.”
Procedurally, the license was handled the same as a traditional marriage would be, District Clerk Jan Helmer said.
Helmer said the Kansas Department of Health and Environment is revising its forms, which are gender-specific.
The license itself was signed off by Jan Craft, Helmer’s secretary. Where it says “his” name, the applicants crossed out “his” and wrote “her.” Where it says “man,” the applicants scratched it and wrote “woman.” Helmer has worked on revising the license applications.
“Now they just say first applicant and second applicant,” she said.