Pastors Can Still Refuse Gay Marriages, KS Churches Unaffected By SCOTUS

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TOPEKA, Kansas (WIBW) -- A week has passed since the U.S. Supreme Court issued a historic order legalizing same-sex marriage in every state.

And churches are responding differently.

We visited congregations of different faith traditions to see how the order affects their policies, if at all.

For many churches, the SCOTUS decision will have little effect on their policies - which means different things.

Father Mitchel Zimmerman of Christ the King Catholic Church in Topeka said the decision doesn't affect their ministry.

"We have a very settled understanding of what marriage is, naturally, and also how Jesus has called us to celebrate it between a man and a woman," Zimmerman said.

Reverend Sarah Oglesby-Dunegan of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Topeka says it doesn't affect her church much, but for entirely different reasons than the Catholic Church.

"We have been doing same-sex marriages for years. For us, all it changes is we have a moment of celebration that we worked hard to make marriage equality happen. But it's also a moment to refocus and look at where oppression is still occurring."

The order also does not change a church's or pastor's right to not do gay weddings, meaning they can't be fined or sued. Washburn Law Professor Bill Rich said the Supreme Court put that issue to rest as clearly as they could in the order.

"There is that freedom of free exercise of religion, and religious organizations are not subject to any new requirements," Rich told us.

So the answer to that question is clear. However, a gray area remains. What would happen if say, a baker or a florist denied services to a same-sex couple?

"At this stage, Kansas does not have any laws as a state that prevent private parties from discriminating on the base of sexual orientation," Rich said. "It's up to the states and the national government to decide."

Rich said he wouldn't be surprised if new developments come that limit private parties' ability to discriminate based on sexual orientation.

He says constitutional provisions would only apply if the government was discriminating, or in an employment context.

Another area he expects will raise a lot of debate is the issue of benefits in the workplace for same-sex couples.

"Those are the kinds of discriminations that really ought to be addressed where I think there is likely to be legal protection," Rich said.

Churches are still separate.

Rev. Oglesby-Dunegan says she expects clergy in other denominations who have not made a clear statement on their church's stance on gay marriage will likely face some awkward situations.

"Other churches can choose to do or not to do gay marriages, but this allows me to do what I've always believed was right. It's doesn't get in the way of my faith anymore," she said.

"There are going to be a lot of people who disagree with us, and that's okay," Fr. Mitchel said. "But we have a responsibility to be in a relationship and dialogue with each other, and recognize that everyone deserves sensitivity, respect, every deserves love. We need to talk through this together."

Governor Sam Brownback on Thursday said he's considering proposing a new religious objections law for Kansas. He is a staunch opponent to same-sex marriage and has said Kansans approve of the ban, based on a 2005 amendment to the Kansas Constitution approved by voters.

The state still does not allow same-sex spouses to change their names on driver's licenses or file joint income tax returns.

Brownback says he wants to make sure such changes are handled correctly.

Attorney General Derek Schmidt withdrew his challenge to gay marriage in Kansas following the SCOTUS order. He dismissed his lawsuit saying against Johnson County Chief District Judge Kevin Moriarty.