Douglas County accepts 15 marriage applications, issues seven licenses to same-sex couples

Topeka residents Tessy Best and Quinta Avance hold hands while waiting for their marriage application to be processed on Thursday, Nov. 13, 2014 at the Douglas County Courthouse. Tessy is wearing an engagement ring that Quinta gave her in April but the two say that they made a commitment to each other ten years ago. On Wednesday, a stay was lifted making way for same-sex marriages in Kansas.

The Douglas County District Court accepted 15 same-sex marriage applications Thursday, a day after the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for gay marriage in Kansas.

Douglas County District Judge Robert Fairchild waived the three-day waiting period and issued licenses to seven of the couples. Fairchild said he would consider similar requests on a case-by-case basis. According to the clerk’s office, at least one couple had been married by 4 p.m. Three other couples were set to marry at the courthouse after 5 p.m.

Two of the couples who applied for marriage licenses Thursday morning at the Douglas County Courthouse live in Johnson County but said they were refused licenses there. Johnson County officials said they were not processing applications because they are still under a direct order from the Kansas Supreme Court not to.

Roeland Park residents Vicki Buchanan and Angie Crowley were the first couple to receive a license in Douglas County after the courthouse opened on Thursday morning. Leawood residents Brian and Randy, who did not wish to give their last names or be photographed, received their license next.

Topeka couple Quinta Avance and Tessy Best were the third couple to receive a license Thursday in Douglas County. Avance and Best said they had been “burned” in October when they applied for marriage in Johnson County. The Kansas Supreme Court stay was put in place during their three-day waiting period.

Plymouth Congregational Church in Lawrence held a news conference Thursday morning to announce that it will have pastors available to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies at the church on Monday evening.

Elsewhere in Kansas

Local district courts across Kansas were responding in different ways to the U.S. Supreme Court order.

In Topeka, Shawnee County court officials said they are prepared to grant licenses to same-sex couples, but none had come to apply in the first few hours of business Thursday morning.

“We’ve revised our forms and if somebody comes, we will certainly help them,” court administrator Cathy Leonhart said. “We haven’t been instructed otherwise, so our chief judge (Evelyn Wilson) has said we will handle applications. There’s a three-day waiting period, but we intend to process them unless instructed differently.”

Johnson County applications were on hold because of a Kansas Supreme Court order.

On Oct. 10, Chief Judge Kevin Moriarty issued an administrative order to begin processing same-sex marriage applications. Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt appealed to the state’s high court to block that order, and the state Supreme Court issued a stay of Moriarty’s order. The court will begin deliberating the case at 8 a.m., Monday, Nov. 17.

Meanwhile in Wyandotte County, court administrator Bill Burns said same-sex couples may apply for a marriage license, but his office has not been told one way or the other whether to grant them.

“They can apply but it will be up to the chief judge (Wayne Lampson) to decide whether we can grant it or not,” Burns said. “We’ve had none come in this morning.”

According to Tom Witt, executive director of Equality Kansas, the district courts in Butler, Greenwood and Elk counties are not accepting applications, pending further court orders or changes to the state constitution.


For more background, read this related story