Topeka Two top Kansas Republican officials objected Tuesday to a ruling by Massachusetts' highest court that declared the state's constitution guarantees gay couples the right to marry.
Atty. Gen. Phill Kline said legislators, not courts, should settle the issue. In Washington, U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback said he opposed the court ruling because "marriage is a sacred institution between a man and a woman."
They were reacting to the Massachusetts court's 4-3 ruling, which said the state's ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.
As a Kansas House member, Kline voted in favor of a 1996 law that reiterated the state's long-standing policy against recognizing same-sex marriages.
"There are those who are trying to redesign legislative authority through our courtrooms to actually mandate recognition of same sex couples in marriage," Kline said.
He added: "I believe that it's legitimately a matter of public debate that should be decided by the Legislature, and I will vigorously defend legislative authority to define marriage as between a man and a woman."
In a statement, Brownback said, "Protecting marriage is essential to the long-term health of our families and culture."
Kline contends Kansas faces a similar issue in a case the state Court of Appeals plans to hear Dec. 2. The case involves Matthew Limon, who wants to be released from prison, where he is serving a sentence of 17 years and two months for criminal sodomy for having sex with another boy in 2000.
Kansas law makes any sexual activity involving a person under 16 illegal, regardless of the context. But Limon could have received a much lighter sentence had he or his partner been female because of a 1999 law providing lesser penalties for consensual sex when one partner is 19 or under and the other partner's age is within four years.
The American Civil Liberties Union, representing Limon, argues that the distinction represents unlawful discrimination.