Topeka — Senators on Saturday adopted a proposed amendment to the Kansas Constitution to ban gay marriage, leaving House passage as the only remaining obstacle to putting the measure on the November ballot.
The vote was 27-13, exactly the two-thirds majority required for approval of a proposed constitutional change. The House plans to vote Monday.
The proposed addition to the Kansas Constitution states that Kansas solely recognizes marriage between one man and one woman and denies the benefits of marriage to other domestic arrangements -- for example, a same-sex civil union.
More than two hours of intense debate preceded the Senate vote, with proponents arguing that the amendment would safeguard important and long-cherished values that underpin American society.
"I believe that the people asking for this are not hateful people," said Sen. Susan Wagle, R-Wichita. "This is providing what's best for the people of Kansas."
Opponents contended the amendment would enshrine discrimination in the state constitution.
"I care about it because I think it strikes at the very nature of freedom," said Sen. David Adkins, R-Leawood, the only senator to have publicly declared support for gay marriage. "I just think Kansas is better than this."
The proposed amendment states:
"The marriage contract is to be considered in law as a civil contract. Marriage shall be constituted by one man and one woman only. All other marriages are declared to be contrary to the public policy of this state and are void.
"No relationship other than a marriage shall be recognized by the state as entitling the parties to the rights or incidents of marriage."
Kansas already has a statute on its books declaring the state's policy of recognizing marriage only as the union of one man and one woman. Some legislators believe the policy should also be written into the Kansas Constitution, which would make it harder for a court or future Legislature to revise the policy.
House and Senate negotiators spent two days wrangling over the explanatory note that would accompany the amendment on the ballot. They settled on language explaining that defeating the amendment would keep the statute in effect, but that it could be amended by legislators in the future or modified by court decisions.
Gay marriage opponents also want to prevent future consideration by the Legislature of civil unions, arguing that granting the benefits of marriage to same-sex couples would render a gay marriage ban meaningless.
"Society depends upon a man and a woman marrying and procreating and raising those children," said Sen. Ed Pugh, R-Wamego. "History has shown that's the way societies prosper."
Sen. Robert Tyson said his constituents want to amend the constitution because, "Our values are slowly slipping away."
"We see the Ten Commandments taken out of the courtroom in other states," said Tyson, R-Parker. "We see prayer being taken out of our schools."
Minority Leader Anthony Hensley and some other critics said the amendment was unnecessary because of Kansas' existing marriage law. Hensley acknowledged the proposed amendment might be popular with his constituents.
"If this is the one vote that will cost me my re-election, I can guarantee you I'm not going to lose any sleep over it, because I know that by casting a vote against this constitutional amendment, I'm doing the right thing," said Hensley, D-Topeka.
The vote generally divided along partisan lines, with 24 Republicans in favor and seven Democrats voting against the measure. But six Republicans and three Democrats broke from their parties' positions.
Sen. John Vratil, R-Leawood, had been among the Senate's negotiators on the bill and had the duty of presenting it to the chamber. But he voted against it, urging colleagues to "shed the politics of this issue."
"This is an issue you should decide based on what your heart and your conscience tell you," he said. "It's not worth serving in this body if you can't follow your heart and your conscience."
Marriage amendment is HCR 5005.