The Kansas Supreme Court on Tuesday paved the way for the state's most populous county, Johnson County, to begin issuing marriage licenses to gay couples.

The high court also said it would defer to the federal courts on whether the state's ban on gay marriage is constitutional.

On November 4, U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree struck down the ban, saying it violates the Fourteenth Amendment. After the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver refused the state's request to stay Crabtree's decision pending an appeal, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt turned to the Supreme Court, which also turned down a similar request.

Johnson County started taking marriage license applications from gay couples in October, but the state Supreme Court ordered it to temporarily stop.

A defiant Schmidt said in a statement that he would continue defending the state's ban in court.

“Because a provision in the Kansas Constitution is at peril, the state of Kansas will continue its defense in federal court as long as a defense is properly available,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt has argued that Crabtree's order only applies to the two counties named in the lawsuit, Douglas and Sedgwick counties. The Kansas Supreme Court said the decision “is not as localized as the State argues” but declined to say whether it applies statewide.

Marriage licenses are currently being issued to gay couples in only a handful of counties in Kansas.