Archive for Saturday, March 6, 2004

Gay marriage debate shifts to Senate

State constitutional ban wins approval of representatives

March 6, 2004


— With just four votes to spare, a proposed amendment to the Kansas Constitution banning gay marriage cleared the House on Friday and moved to an uncertain fate in the Senate.

The proposed amendment states that Kansas recognizes only marriages between one man and one woman and confers the legal rights associated with marriage only on such couples.

Amendments to the Kansas Constitution must be approved by two-thirds of both legislative chambers and a simple majority of voters in a statewide election.

The 125-member House adopted the amendment Friday on an 88-36 vote, giving it just four votes above the required minimum. The measure must receive 27 votes in the 40-member Senate to go on the Nov. 2 ballot.

Sen. Tim Huelskamp, a strong proponent of the measure, expressed shock at the close House vote. As for amassing a two-thirds majority in the Senate, Huelskamp said, "That's tough to get on anything."

Neither Senate President Dave Kerr, R-Hutchinson, nor Senate Majority Leader Lana Oleen, R-Manhattan, would reveal Friday whether they support the amendment. Oleen said she would not prevent a vote on it but that she did not know how it will fare.

A state law adopted in 1996 already asserts that marriage in Kansas is valid only between one man and one woman. Proponents of the amendment say putting the same language into the Kansas Constitution would make the state's policy less vulnerable to reversal by a court.

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius on Friday questioned the need for amending the constitution.

"We have law in place," Sebelius said at a news conference. "No one has challenged that law. There is no activity in Kansas that is challenging that law."

Proponents also contend that protecting the traditional definition of marriage would help bolster families.

In publicly explaining his vote for the amendment, Rep. Vern Osborne, R-St. George, quoted an e-mail he received from a teacher: "Kids starting out with a mom and dad have a great advantage. Please protect that."

And Rep. Kathe Decker, R-Clay Center, said after the vote, "I just think we need to protect a tradition and a standard that's been around before government."

Some of those who voted against the measure called it discriminatory and quoted the Declaration of Independence and the Gettysburg Address.

Rep. Nancy Kirk, D-Topeka, recited a long list of wrongs in American history, including slavery and denying women the right to vote.

"We are wrong today," she said. "When will we ever learn?"

Area legislators were split along urban and rural constituencies in their votes on the constitutional amendment banning gay marriages.Lawrence Reps. Tom Sloan, a Republican, and Democrats Barbara Ballard and Paul Davis, all voted against the amendment.Reps. Lee Tafanelli, R-Ozawkie, and Tom Holland, D-Baldwin, voted in favor of the ban.

Rep. John Ballou, R-Gardner, said he was voting against the proposed amendment even though he finds same-sex marriage "disgusting."

"It is not my place to judge anyone," he said. "It's God's place."

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.

Gay marriage ban is HCR 5033.

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