Tag Archives: licenses

Oregon county judge refuses to perform same-sex marriages

Marion County Judge Vance Day is being investigated by a judicial fitness commission in part over his refusal to perform same-sex marriages on religious grounds, a spokesman for the Oregon judge said.

When a federal court ruling in May 2014 made same-sex marriage legal in Oregon, Day instructed his staff to refer same-sex couples looking to marry to other judges, spokesman Patrick Korten said.

Last fall, he decided to stop performing weddings altogether, aside from one in March that had long been scheduled, Korten said.

“He made a decision nearly a year ago to stop doing weddings altogether, and the principal factor that he weighed was the pressure that one would face to perform a same-sex wedding, which he had a conflict with his religious beliefs,” Korten said.

In an email, Day declined to comment and referred questions to Korten.

The issue of same-sex weddings is “the weightiest” of several allegations against Day that are being investigated by the Commission on Judicial Fitness and Disability, Korten said.

He declined to detail any of the allegations, saying he didn’t want to defy the commission, which considers complaints confidential until it is ready to make them public.

The investigation of Day’s conduct comes amid heightened national attention to the responsibilities of public officials who oppose same-sex marriage. Kim Davis, a county clerk in Kentucky, went to jail Thursday because of her refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Last month, the Ohio Supreme Court’s Board of Professional Conduct said judges can’t refuse to marry same-sex couples on personal, moral or religious grounds.

Judges who stop performing all marriages to avoid marrying same-sex couples may be interpreted as biased and could be disqualified from any case where sexual orientation is an issue, the Ohio board ruled.

The investigation of Day came to light last week, when the Oregon Government Ethics Commission – a separate entity from the judicial fitness commission – approved the judge’s request to create a legal defense fund to pay his lawyers.

Day, a former chairman of the Oregon Republican Party, was appointed to the bench in 2011 by then-Gov. John Kitzhaber, a Democrat.

Day’s move concerned Jeana Frazzini, co-director of the gay-rights group Basic Rights Oregon.

“Taking that kind of a step really calls into question how an LGBTQ person could expect to be treated in a court of law,” Frazzini said. “It goes beyond marriage and gets to serious questions about judicial integrity.”

Alabama Supreme Court says anti-gay ruling stands until U.S. Supreme Court rules

The Alabama Supreme Court has made itself an outlier in the judicial march legalizing same-sex marriages in the United States, drawing rebukes from gay rights advocates and evoking comparisons to Alabama’s defiance of federal authorities during the civil rights movement.

The court set up a showdown with a Mobile, Alabama, federal judge this week when it ordered officials in the state to stop issuing same-sex marriage licenses pending a U.S. Supreme Court decision later this year on whether gays and lesbians have a fundamental right to marry.

The Alabama ruling contradicts U.S. District Judge Callie “Ginny” Granade, who declared in January that Alabama’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage violates the U.S. Constitution.

“Even as nationwide marriage equality is on the horizon, the Alabama Supreme Court is determined to be on the wrong side of history,” said Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

Alabama wasn’t the first state where a federal trial or appeals court declared same-sex marriages legal, but the state justices made Alabama the only state to push back in advance of the U.S. Supreme Court settling the matter.

The justices’ decision had quick results: By Wednesday afternoon, gay rights advocates said they could not find one of Alabama’s 67 counties where a same-sex couple could get a marriage license. Before the ruling, 48 counties had issued licenses in compliance with Granade’s earlier declarations.

The Alabama justices don’t dispute that the nation’s highest court will have the final say. But absent that ruling, the justices reasoned, they remain the ultimate authority on applying the U.S. Constitution to a state law. “State courts may interpret the U.S. Constitution independently from, and even contrary to, federal courts,” they wrote in a decision that described “traditional” marriage as “the fundamental unit of society.”

Minter, the attorney who represented gay couples who initially challenged Alabama’s ban, said the state justices showed “callous disregard” for their rights.

Dean Lanton said he and his partner, Randy Wells, had planned to wed in Birmingham on Aug. 12, the anniversary of their first date, but now might have to get married out of state because of the decision.

“It was a punch in the gut. It was out of the blue,” said Lanton, 54. “It’s just Alabama politics, deja vu from the 1960s.”

University of Alabama law professor Ronald Krotoszynski said the Alabama justices are technically correct in asserting their authority in the case. The U.S. Constitution actually doesn’t say whether state courts must adhere to federal court rulings. It simply created U.S. Supreme Court and authorized Congress to create other federal courts as necessary.

But Krotoszynski said the particular circumstances still make the Alabama action surprising, particularly given that the 11th U.S. Circuit of Appeals in Atlanta and the U.S. Supreme Court itself declined Alabama’s earlier requests to delay Granade’s order until after the high court rules this year.

Many legal observers have interpreted those refusals as the court telegraphing its intention to rule in favor of same-sex marriage advocates.

“Does the (Alabama) court have the power to do this? Yes,” the professor said. “Was it wise for the court to exercise its power this way? I’d say no. … This is just not a standard kind of move in the inter-relationship between state and federal courts.”

Same-sex couples will likely appeal up to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary to block the latest state supreme court ruling, said Ben Cooper, chairman of Equality Alabama. “It’s important to understand that this is not nearly the end of this,” he said.

Montgomery County Probate Judge Steven Reed, a Democrat who was among the first to comply with Granade’s order, said he would likely join an appeal.

John Enslen, Reed’s colleague in neighboring Elmore County, however, praised the Alabama justices. He wrote on his Facebook page that he is “saddened for my nation that the word `marriage’ has been hijacked by couples who cannot procreate.”

Then there are the county officials who aren’t advocating a position – they’re just tired of the legal roller coaster.

“It’s very frustrating,” said Probate Judge Leon Archer in rural Tallapoosa County. “I had done made up my mind we were going to issue the licenses and I thought that was it. And I think that is going to be the ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court in June.”

Alabama chief justice urges state to go rogue, refuse same-sex marriages

Alabama’s chief justice, who famously refused to remove a Ten Commandments monument from a state judicial building, has urged probate judges to refuse marriage licenses to gay couples even though a federal judge ruled the state’s same-sex marriage ban was unconstitutional.

Roy Moore sent a letter to Alabama probate judges this week saying they are not bound by the ruling because they were not defendants in the lawsuit and have not been directly ordered to issue the licenses. He said the federal court did not have the authority to allow same-sex marriages.

“No federal judge, or court, should redefine marriage,” Moore said in an interview on Feb. 5.

Moore said state courts, including probate courts, have the authority to interpret the U.S. Constitution independently, just like lower federal courts do, and the U.S. Supreme Court will resolve disputes over those interpretations.

The Republican judge is no stranger to controversial remarks about homosexuality and the decisions of federal judges. Moore was removed as Alabama chief justice in 2003 after he refused to obey what he called an “unlawful” federal court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the rotunda of the state judicial building. Moore in 2002 called homosexuality “an inherent evil” in ruling against a lesbian mother in a child custody case.

Moore, who was re-elected in 2012, said he sent the letter to offer advice to probate judges because of confusion over the federal ruling. However, a legal group that has clashed with Moore in the past says he is the one trying to incite chaos. And Moore’s advice is contrary to that of the Alabama Probate Judges Association, which said last week that the decision is binding on the state’s probate judges.

U.S. District Judge Callie Granade’s order striking down the state’s ban on gay marriage will go into effect on Feb. 9 unless the U.S. Supreme Court grants Alabama’s request for a delay. Gay couples are expected to apply for marriage licenses across Alabama that day.

Granade clarified her first order, saying the judges have a constitutional duty to issue the licenses. But she stopped short of ordering them to do so.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, the group that filed the complaint that led to Moore’s ouster in 2003, filed a new judicial ethics complaint over his comments about the gay marriage ruling.

“Justice Moore is, I think, a dangerous person. He’s created a crisis in the state before. He just seems hell-bent determined to do it again,” said Richard Cohen, president of the SPLC.

Cohen said judges who refuse to issue licenses risk being sued and were being led into “very, very hot water by suggesting they ignore Judge Granade’s order.”

But Moore said it was his duty as head of the court system to try to help judges sort out the issues.

“I can’t tell them how to think. I can’t tell them how to interpret the Constitution. I can say that they are obliged to follow the Alabama Constitution and nothing prevents that,” Moore said. “To disobey the Alabama Constitution would be to ignore the 81 percent of the people in this state that adopted the Sanctity of Marriage Amendment.”

Illinois issues medical marijuana licenses

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner awarded licenses this week to dozens of medical marijuana businesses across the state after conducting an internal review that found flaws in the never-completed license award process under former Gov. Pat Quinn.

Letters to 18 winning cultivation centers and 52 retail shops were sent out, Rauner spokesman Lance Trover told The Associated Press. In eight districts, Rauner delayed the licenses for further review, leaving those jurisdictions awaiting word on which companies will be able to join what could be a $36 million industry in 2016.

“I believe the right companies were rewarded,” said Tim McGraw, CEO of ACE Revolution Cannabis, which won licenses to build marijuana-growing facilities in the Illinois cities of Delavan and Barry. “We’re excited to get to work to bring safe medicine to the patients of Illinois.”

Letters sent to the cultivation center winners from the Department of Agriculture inform them of a number of conditions. Businesses will need to pay a license fee, for example, and they’ll be subject to ongoing oversight during the startup process.

The license awards follow many weeks of uncertainty after the Quinn administration failed to meet its own deadline of issuing the permits by the end of 2014. The Democrat announced the morning of Rauner’s inauguration that he would leave the issue for the Republican to decide. 

The Associated Press reported last week, based on documents obtained in a Freedom of Information Act request, that Quinn’s office was scrambling to decide whether to issue licenses on the eve of him leaving office. The Rauner administration launched its review of the process almost immediately.

Medical patients had been pushing Quinn to issue the licenses. Rauner’s action this week means that Illinois’ first legal marijuana crop could be harvested this year. It’s not immediately clear how long it will be before patients will have access to the first legal cannabis. 

State Rep. Lou Lang, the Skokie Democrat who sponsored the legislation that created the pilot program, praised Rauner for issuing the licenses. He said although the Republican governor inherited a program with several problems and has indicated he is not a big fan of medical cannabis, his office managed to carefully review the process and issue licenses with only three weeks of delay. 

“Gov. Rauner deserves a lot of credit here,” Lang said. “It’s great for patients.”

Rauner’s general counsel, Jason Barclay, released a statement Monday listing problems in the Quinn process that had created “a risk of substantial and costly litigation” to the state.

Barclay said that the teams reviewing the applications imposed arbitrary cut-offs in scores “that were not expressly contemplated or provided by law that effectively eliminated certain applicants from consideration.”

He said the state agencies involved conducted a character and fitness review of the applicants only after the blind scoring process had been completed. That character and fitness review resulted in several applicants being disqualified “without clear procedures and standards for disqualification and without offering the prospective applicants an opportunity to respond to the information that was relied upon to make the disqualification decisions.”

Finally, the Rauner administration faulted Quinn for deciding “to award no more than one cultivation center license to applicants who were the high point scorers in more than one district.”

Barclay said the review was shared with Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office, which also reviewed the findings. Natalie Bauer, a spokeswoman for the attorney general, wouldn’t elaborate.

One dispensary applicant still under review in two districts, Health Central LLC, had hired former Quinn chief of staff Jack Lavin to lobby for medical marijuana licenses. 

Matthew Hortenstine, an attorney representing Health Central, said he’s “confident the Rauner administration will be fair-minded about this and give an adequate and proper review.” Other companies also had politically connected lobbyists, Hortenstine said.

Lang, the sponsor, said he’s believed from the beginning that the process would result in litigation, and that a lawsuit was likely regardless of how Rauner handled it. 

Lang said he spoke with some patients after hearing the news. “They are thrilled and ready to go,” he said.

Quinn made no decisions because he “felt the process was incomplete,” Quinn spokesman George Sweeney said in an email Monday. “He refused to rush the licenses out the door and instead left the licensing decisions to the next administration, as was done with many contracting decisions at other state agencies.”

Material released last week by Rauner’s administration “was preliminary and never approved” by Quinn, Sweeney said.

Federal judge stays marriage equality ruling in Alabama

A federal judge has put a temporary hold on her decision that overturned Alabama’s gay marriage ban, but indicated she will soon answer a key question: Must state probate judges issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples when the stay is lifted?

U.S. District Judge Callie V. S. Granade on Jan. 25 refused the Alabama attorney general’s request to put her ruling on hold until the U.S. Supreme Court takes up the issue of gay marriage later this year. However, Granade did issue a 14-day stay to give the state time to ask the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for a lengthier delay.

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange called the delay a “step in the right direction” because it will allow the state time to prepare appellate arguments and perhaps settle questions about the effect of the ruling. Advocates of gay marriage rights expressed disappointment but were confident they would ultimately prevail.

“While we’re disappointed that committed, loving gay and lesbian couples in Alabama will not be able to marry (Monday), we’re hopeful the final legal barriers will be overcome quite soon,” Human Rights Campaign Alabama director Ashley Jackson said.

Some hoping to get married swiftly expressed disappointment over the two-week hold.

Tori Sisson and Shante Wolfe of Tuskegee were prepared to camp outside the Montgomery courthouse all night Sunday in hopes of securing a marriage license first thing Monday from a judge who indicated he would be issuing them absent a stay.

“It’s aggravating. The judge ruled and everybody got so excited and now, this,” Sisson said.

The stay will expire Feb. 9 unless the court extends it.

Granade said within that time that she will issue a separate order clarifying the effect of her ruling on those seeking and issuing marriage licenses across Alabama.

Lawyers for the Mobile couple that brought the original suit requested the clarification after the Alabama Probate Judges’ Association advised judges that they should not issue licenses to same-sex couples.

The group maintained that ruling declaring the ban unconstitutional only applies to the parties in that case, and that it doesn’t require judges to issue marriage licenses to other same-sex couples.

“As probate judges, our duty is to issue marriage licenses in accordance with Alabama law and that means we cannot legally issue marriage licenses to same sex couples,” Monroe County Probate Judge Greg Norris said.

Some judges disagreed with that view and indicated they were prepared to issue licenses on Monday.

David Kennedy, an attorney for the plaintiffs in the case, said the judges’ association needed to “embrace reality” that the ban had been struck down.

Granade had ruled on Jan. 23 that Alabama’s statutory and constitutional bans on gay marriage were in violation of the U.S. Constitution. That ruling was the latest in a string of victories for same-sex marriage advocates around the Deep South. Still, the judge’s order reverberated in a state considered one of the Bible Belt’s most socially conservative, drawing praise and disbelief from some and scorn from others.

The ruling striking down the marriage ban came out of a case filed by Cari Searcy and Kim McKeand of Mobile. The couple said the ban prevented Alabama from recognizing their 2008 California marriage and Searcy as a parent to the son they had together. McKeand gave birth to the child in 2005, but the court’s rejected Searcy’s adoption petition because the couple was not legally married.

Strange’s office had sought to put Granade’s order on hold until the U.S. Supreme Court rules. The state argued there would be widespread confusion if couple’s got married, but the marriages were later ruled invalid.

Granade said it was inappropriate, in her view, to continue to delay.

“As long as a stay is in place, same-sex couples and their families remain in a state of limbo with respect to adoption, child care and custody, medical decisions, employment and health benefits, future tax implications, inheritance and many other rights associated with marriage,” she wrote.

Russia says transgender people unfit to drive

New Russian road safety regulations bar transgender people and others with sexual “disorders” from driving.

The new regulations have been denounced by human rights activists, who see them as unconstitutional and part of Russia’s crackdown on the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community.

The government resolution, dated Dec. 29, lists numerous medical conditions that make someone ineligible for a driving license, including “mental and behavioral disorders” as defined by the World Health Organization.

The WHO classification includes “gender identity disorders” such as transsexualism and “disorders of sexual preference,” including fetishism and voyeurism.

Human Rights First called it an “alarming violation of the rights of the transgender community” and “just another example of the Russian regime’s methodical rollback of basic human rights for its citizens.”

At the Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBT civil rights group in the United States, HRC Global deputy director Jean Freedberg said, “Restricting transgender people from obtaining drivers licenses is simply another example of the Russian government’s increased campaign of persecution and discrimination against its LGBT population.”

70 percent of Americans live in a state with marriage equality

A federal judge’s stay on a ruling overturning Florida’s ban on marriage equality expires at the end of the day on Jan. 5, making the Sunshine State the latest where same-sex couples can legally marry. With Florida factored into the equation, more than 216 million Americans — 70 percent of the country — live in a state with marriage equality.

Since this time last year, state statutes or constitutional amendments banning marriage rights for same-sex couples have been overturned by state or federal courts in 28 states.  As of Jan. 6, gay and lesbian couples will be able to legally marry in 36 states and Washington, D.C.

“The overwhelming tidal wave of court rulings over the last year has put America on the cusp of nationwide marriage equality,” said Human Rights Campaign legal director Sarah Warbelow in a news release issued Jan. 5. “Committed and loving gay and lesbian couples in Florida are just as deserving of marriage rights as anyone else. It’s time government officials such as Attorney General Bondi and individuals like her across the country stop fighting to uphold discrimination. As long as shameful marriage bans stay in place, real people and real families are harmed.”

On Dec. 19, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an order declining to extend the stay on a federal court ruling striking down Florida’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples.

The order pertained to an Aug. 21 federal court decision in Brenner v. Scott in which U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle ruled Florida’s ban on marriage equality violates the 14th Amendment’s due process and equal protection clauses. Hinkle stayed his ruling “until 91 days after stays have been denied or lifted in Bostic v. Schaefer, Bishop v. Smith and Kitchen v. Herbert” — marriage equality cases from other states that were on appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court at the time. The High Court later declined to take up the cases, immediately ending the stays that were in place. The Brenner case out of Florida is on appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.

Earlier on Jan. 5, Florida Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel lifted a stay on her ruling in a separate case striking down the state’s marriage ban, allowing same-sex couples in Miami-Dade County to begin marrying this afternoon.

This time last year, same-sex couples could legally marry in 16 states and Washington, D.C. Roughly 105 million Americans, or 34 percent of the country, lived in marriage equality states.

In just a year, that number has more than doubled to over 216 million Americans. Dozens of federal court rulings from judges appointed by Republican and Democratic presidents have struck down state bans on same-sex marriage, including Wisconsin’s ban.

Only two federal courts have said such bans should remain in place since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled key portions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional in June 2013. 

Today there are marriage cases from six states on appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

On Jan. 9, the justices will consider whether to take a case from Louisiana, which has not yet received a ruling from a federal appeals court, and cases from Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee, after a three-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled to uphold those states’ bans on marriage equality. The court is under no obligation as to which case or cases — if any — it chooses to hear on appeal.

Florida clerks won’t give gays marriage licenses

Most of Florida’s 67 clerks of court don’t plan to issue marriage licenses to gay couples on Jan. 6 because they are paralyzed by confusion over whether a same-sex marriage ban is being lifted across the whole state that day, according to an Associated Press survey.

The overwhelmingly majority of clerks who responded to AP’s inquiry this week said they wouldn’t offer marriage licenses to same-sex couples without further clarification from a federal judge on whether his ruling applies beyond Washington County. A lawsuit filed in the remote Panhandle county by two men seeking to be married became a key basis for U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle’s decision ruling the state’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional.

The association representing Florida’s clerks has issued an opinion that the ruling doesn’t apply to other counties, and said clerks can be prosecuted for violating the law if they issue same-sex marriage licenses. Most clerks are following that advice.

“I’m not going to break the law,” said Paula O’Neill, the clerk for Pasco County, in the Tampa area. “I’m not going to issue licenses until it’s legal.”

Of the 53 clerks who responded to the AP survey, 46 said they wouldn’t grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples because they lack legal authority. Six said they hadn’t made up their minds. Only one clerk outside Washington County, Osceola County’s Armando Ramirez, said he would issue the licenses.

Ramirez said his office, south of Orlando, would begin issuing marriage permits for same-sex couples a minute after midnight on Jan. 6. He said it’s a matter of not discriminating against a minority group.

“We won’t waste any time,” he said.

Gay rights groups are disputing the clerk association’s interpretation of Hinkle’s ruling, and they’re threatening legal action if licenses for same-sex couples aren’t issued across the state. On Wednesday, they sent a memo to Florida’s 67 clerks of court stating the clerks are required to stop enforcing Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage in two weeks.

“We are prepared to fight,” said Sharon Kersten, a public relations consultant for Equality Florida, the gay rights group.

Some clerks said they’re hoping for clarification from a court.  Dwight Brock, clerk of Collier County in southwest Florida, said it would be “disastrous” if counties didn’t act in a uniform manner. He hasn’t decided what to do given the conflicting opinions.

“It is as clear as mud,” Brock said.

The judge may offer some clarity. Washington County’s clerk on Tuesday asked Hinkle if his ruling applied only to the couple in the lawsuit or to any same-sex couple seeking a marriage license from the county.  On Wednesday, Hinkle asked two state agencies to offer their positions by next Monday on whether his ruling “binds a Florida clerk of court.”

Several clerks who don’t plan to issue the licenses until they get further clarification said they’re conflicted, since they support gay rights.

“I’ve been with the gay community on the issue of equality, forever. I want to see this resolved,” said Pat Frank, clerk for Hillsborough County. “The only thing that concerns me are the penalties that might affect my office. It’s a first-degree misdemeanor if the State Attorney decides to prosecute me.”

At least one Florida prosecutor, State Attorney Jeff Ashton in Orlando, has said he wouldn’t prosecute any clerks for issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. His jurisdiction covers Orange and Osceola counties.

Some clerks are considering sending same-sex couples to county judges, who are also allowed to issue marriage licenses under Florida law. County judges can waive some marriage-license requirements, such as the three-day waiting period or the restriction on a minor getting married.

“Maybe, if nothing changes, we would treat it like these other cases, and send it to a county judge,” said Ken Burke, clerk of Pinellas County in the St. Petersburg area.

Meanwhile, an appellate court in Miami upheld Wednesday the dismissal of a divorce petition by a lesbian couple who had married in Iowa. The judges on the 3rd District Court of Appeal said same-sex couples don’t have standing to dissolve their marriages in Florida since the state only recognizes marriages between a man and a woman.

“We acknowledge that the nation is presently engaged in a great national conversation on the subject of same-sex marriage,” the judges said. “However, this is neither the time nor the place for this court to insert itself into that discussion.”

Uncertainty in Kansas as officials refuse to honor court orders on same-sex marriage

Same-sex couples in Kansas are eager to say “I do” in the exchange of wedding vows, but Kansas officials — from the state level to the local level — are saying we won’t to legal rulings to issue marriage licenses.

A U.S. Supreme Court decision late on Nov. 12 cleared the way for same-sex marriages in Kansas, but the court clerk in the most populous county won’t grant licenses to gay couples until a separate legal case is resolved before the state’s highest court.

And Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt’s determination to defend the state’s gay-marriage ban remains a roadblock to same-sex weddings. He has the backing of ultra-right Gov. Sam Brownback, a fellow Republican who pledged to work with Schmidt to preserve a provision in the state constitution against gay marriage that was approved overwhelmingly by voters in 2005.

The U.S. Supreme Court denied a request from Kansas to prevent gay and lesbian couples from marrying while the state fights the issue in court. Schmidt said that decision applies only in Douglas, a northeastern Kansas county, and Sedgwick, in south-central Kansas, where the court clerks are defendants. The American Civil Liberties Union contends the ruling applies in all 105 counties.

The legal situation in Kansas is complicated by another case before the Kansas Supreme Court, which Schmidt filed last month. He persuaded the Kansas court to block marriage licenses for same-sex couples, at least while his case is heard.

Marriage licenses in Kansas are issued by district court clerks’ offices after a mandatory three-day wait. In Johnson County, Court Clerk Sandra McCurdy said about 70 applications from same-sex couples are pending.

“Until I hear something from the Kansas Supreme Court, I’m not issuing any marriage licenses,” McCurdy said.

Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond, Virginia, law professor, said other clerks are likely to react the same way “out of an abundance of caution.”

The U.S. Supreme Court order was consistent with its handling of requests from other states seeking to preserve their bans while they appealed lower-court rulings favoring gays and lesbians.

However, Kansas’ emergency appeal was closely watched to see whether the court would change its practice following last week’s appellate ruling that upheld anti-gay marriage laws in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee. Those cases now are headed to the Supreme Court, and the gay marriage issue nationwide could be heard and decided by late June.

The U.S. Supreme Court last month declined to hear cases from three appeals courts that had overturned gay marriage bans. Kansas, South Carolina and Montana all have refused to allow gay couples to obtain marriages licenses despite rulings from federal appeals courts that oversee them.

Gay marriage is legal in 32 other states.

Schmidt filed his case with the Kansas Supreme Court after the chief judge in Johnson County responded to last month’s U.S. Supreme Court action by ordering licenses to be issued to same-sex couples. A lesbian couple received one and quickly wed, becoming the only known same-sex Kansas couple to do so.

Florida Supreme Court asked to decide marriage equality case

Florida’s highest court is being asked to decide whether or not the state’s ban on gay marriage is constitutional.

In an unusual decision, the state’s 2nd District Court of Appeal on Aug. 27 asked the Florida Supreme Court to settle the question due to “great public importance.” If the high court takes up the case, it could result in having the issue settled before the U.S. Supreme Court acts.

The ruling is connected to a Hillsborough County divorce case involving a same-sex couple who had been married in Massachusetts but since relocated to the Tampa area. Their petition to dissolve their marriage was rejected by a Florida judge who noted that state law does not recognize gay marriage.

“Resolution of the constitutional questions will no doubt impact far more individuals than the two involved here,” states the unsigned opinion. “And there can be little doubt that until the constitutional questions are finally resolved by the Florida Supreme Court or the United States Supreme Court, there will be a great impact on the proper administration of justice in Florida.”

A panel of judges with the Lakeland based appeals court earlier this summer rejected a request to forward the case up the state Supreme Court. But that ruling was overturned in a 10-3 decision by the entire appeals court.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has asked judges to stop ruling on same-sex marriage cases until the U.S. Supreme Court decides whether states can ban gay marriage. But her request has not been ruled on yet. Bondi’s office was not involved in the Hillsborough County case, but a spokeswoman said the ruling is being reviewed now by the attorney general.

Voters approved Florida’s ban in 2008.

But judges in four Florida counties – Palm Beach, Monroe, Miami-Dade and Broward- have overturned the ban. Last week a federal judge also overturned the ban. No marriage licenses have been issued so far as the cases have either been appealed or judges have issued a stay to delay the effect of the ruling.

Gay marriage proponents have won more than 20 legal decisions against state same-sex marriage restrictions since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a key part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act last year.