A Kansas prison inmate claims he's being discriminated against because the Department of Corrections won't allow visits from his husband, whom he married legally in Iowa.
Christopher Yates, 34, was convicted in March 2012 in Ford County on charges of identity theft, theft of $100,000 or greater, criminal possession of a firearm, criminal use of a financial card, computer crime and perjury. Yates is serving a seven-year sentence at the Norton Correctional Facility.
In letters to the Topeka Capital-Journal, Yates says prison officials will not let him see his husband. Yates has provided the newspaper with a copy of his marriage license signed April 2011 in Des Moines, Iowa.
Corrections department spokesman Jeremy Barclay said Yates' situation isn't the same as other cases regarding visitation because the individual seeking access is a co-defendant in Yates' crimes, although the department has no written policy on the matter.
"That is at the discretion of each warden," Barclay said.
Ken Upton, an attorney for the national gay rights group Lambda Legal, says Yates' complaint is unusual but not surprising.
"It's the first time I've actually heard about it," Upton said of Yates' complaint. "I think it will happen more frequently as more and more same-sex couples don't have to go all the way to New York or someplace like that to get married."
Yates said his husband's visitation application was denied because of "unfavorable background," although his husband meets the criteria for visitations and that other inmates have had visitors who have similar criminal histories.
"Logically, one would think that someone with a history of drug-related offenses would pose more of a 'security and safety issue' for the facility," Yates wrote.
Upton said Yates had limited legal options even if he can produce evidence that other inmates are allowed visitors with criminal backgrounds, noting that wardens can use their discretion on visitation.
"It is true, the wardens run those prisons," Upton said. "They are accountable to virtually no one, and they rely on policies that often are in their head."