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Archive for Saturday, March 6, 2004

Lawrence lesbians apply for license

March 6, 2004

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A lesbian couple recently applied for a marriage license in Douglas County and were turned away, officials said.

Doug Hamilton, clerk of the District Court, said that sometime in the past two weeks -- he doesn't know the exact day -- a woman came into the office and began applying for a marriage license.

When it became clear that the woman's intended was another woman, the employee taking the application said she couldn't legally complete it. The employee then gave the woman a copy of the state's marriage statute, which defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

That was that.

"Their recourse would be to file a lawsuit," Hamilton said.

The couple's names are not on record because the application wasn't completed, he said. Hamilton said he didn't learn of the request until Thursday.

He said he planned to meet soon with administrative Judge Robert Fairchild and court administrator Linda Koester-Vogelsang to ensure that his office had a proper procedure for dealing with such requests.

"The law is pretty straightforward, but I want to be sensitive, and I want the clerks to be sensitive to the currency of the topic and to the people seeking the licenses," he said.

Fairchild said he thought the employee handled the request well.

"I'm not sure I could have come up with a better policy than what the clerk did," he said. "I do think we'll talk about it and make sure we're all on the same page."

Sarah Burris, director of Queers & Allies at Kansas University, said she was trying to determine how many local same-sex couples were willing to band together and challenge the law by applying for licenses.

It's not easy to find takers, she said.

"I tend to see that people are scared to do anything or say anything because they're afraid that they're just going to be shot down by a very conservative Legislature and Kansas community," she said.

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