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Archive for Saturday, May 1, 2004

Gay marriage amendment in works

May 1, 2004

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— Legislative negotiators Friday neared an agreement on a proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriages.

State Sen. John Vratil, R-Leawood, said a House-Senate conference committee probably would produce a bill today for both chambers to vote on.

"We have made significant progress," he said.

State Sen. David Adkins, R-Leawood, who has opposed anti-gay measures, said, "The steamroller is moving."

The amendment would say that only a man and woman can be married and realize the benefits and rights of marriage in Kansas.

Tiffany Muller, of Kansas Unity and Pride Alliance, said she hoped the proposal would fail in one of the chambers.

"It's very close in the House and Senate. Our ultimate goal is not to have discrimination put in our constitution," Muller said.

State law already prohibits gay marriages, but supporters of a constitutional ban say it is needed to further protect the law from possible court decisions that could require recognition of gay marriages performed elsewhere.

To add the measure to the Kansas Constitution would require two-thirds approval in the House and Senate. Then it would be placed on the ballot in November for voters to consider.

The proposed ban died in the Senate during the first part of the legislative session, but public outcry brought the issue back up, according to the Rev. Joe Wright of the 8,000-member Central Christian Church in Wichita.

"It was really dead three weeks ago," he said.

Bill Rich, a constitutional law professor at Washburn University in Topeka, told lawmakers that a constitutional ban would backfire on those who want to make gay unions illegal and serve as a "catalyst for litigation."

"When a state chooses to discriminate against a disfavored minority group by amending the state constitution, that discrimination will be suspect in the eyes of the court," Rich said.

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