Topeka The House gave tentative approval Thursday to a proposed amendment to the Kansas Constitution banning gay marriage, a measure that supporters and opponents alike believe voters would pass.
The measure advanced on a voice vote to final action, expected Friday. Final approval by two-thirds of the House would send the legislation to the Senate, where passage by the same margin would put the question on the November ballot.
On an 84-35 vote, the House rejected an attempt to rewrite the proposal as a resolution of support for both traditional marriage and Vermont-style civil unions for same-sex couples.
Kansas already has a law, adopted in 1996, stating that marriage is valid only between one man and one woman. The proposed amendment would add a similar statement to the state constitution, plus a prohibition on granting benefits associated with marriage to other relationships.
Proponents said they want to prevent a Kansas court from invalidating the existing statute.
"I do believe we do have a clear definition of what marriage is and God ordained it many years ago," said Rep. Kathe Lloyd, R-Clay Center, one of the proposal's main sponsors.
Before the House's debate, relatively little opposition had surfaced among legislators, though gay rights supporters questioned its fairness. Gov. Kathleen Sebelius has questioned the need for the amendment because of the 1996 law.
Rep. Tim Owens, R-Overland Park, offered the failed proposal mentioning civil unions. He said the amendment would enshrine a restriction in the Kansas Constitution on the rights of certain citizens.
"What group is going to be next to be singled out?" Owens said.
Rep. Jan Scoggins-Waite, D-Dodge City, said the amendment would restrict the right of her family to see her older son get married or enter into a union. He is gay, and her other son is not.
"It's the way they were born," said Scoggins-Waite, drawing scattered applause fro the House gallery.
Kansas is among 34 states with laws against gay marriages, but legislators in at least 15 of them are considering constitutional changes. Four states already have constitutional provisions against same-sex marriages -- Alaska, Hawaii, Nebraska and Nevada.
Local officials in California, New Mexico, New York and Oregon recently have granted marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Of those states, only California has a law against same-sex marriages.
Marriage amendment is HCR 5033.
On the Net:
Kansas Legislature: http://www.kslegislature.org