By Lawrence Hurley
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. Supreme justice on Monday temporarily blocked gay marriage in Kansas a day before it was due to go into effect.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued an order saying that the court wanted gay marriage advocates to respond to the state’s application seeking to put gay marriage on hold. U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Crabtree struck down the state’s gay marriage ban last week, ruling that it would go into effect on Tuesday at 6 p.m. Eastern Time (2300 GMT) if no other court intervened.
Sotomayor's action does not mean the high court will grant the Kansas application.
The Kansas case marks the first time the gay marriage issue has come before the high court since a Cincinnati-based regional federal appeals court last week became the first in the nation to uphold gay marriage bans following a series of other rulings rejecting the prohibitions as a violation of the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of equal protection under the law.
That decision by the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals backing gay marriage prohibitions in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee created a split within the courts and increased the chances that the Supreme Court will rule once and for all whether states have the right to ban gay marriage.
The Kansas lawyers cited the 6th Circuit ruling five times in their stay application.
Kansas has already been denied a stay request by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the regional appeals court that handles cases from that state. That appeals court previously struck down gay marriage bans in Utah and Oklahoma.
The Supreme Court declined to hear the states' appeals in those cases, meaning that all the other states within that appeals court's jurisdiction - including Kansas - are bound by the ruling.
There are currently 32 states where gay marriage is legal.
(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)