Topeka — A proposed constitutional amendment to prohibit gay marriage failed to get the required two-thirds vote in the House today in a stunning reversal that angered conservative religious leaders.
The House voted 79-45 for the measure, five votes short of the required 84 votes to reach the two-thirds threshhold that would have put the proposition to a statewide vote.
The Senate had adopted the measure on Saturday, 27-13.
An earlier version had passed the House in March, 88-36.
Supporters of the amendment who watched the vote today were stunned as several lawmakers changed their positions from the March vote in the House.
In a news conference after the vote, the ministers vowed that the issue would be brought up again during the current legislative session and that those legislators who voted against it would be held accountable in the next election.
"We absolutely refuse to allow our legislators to tell us we do not have a right to vote on something as important as marriage is to us. The church has just gotten started, the jet engines are warming up and we'll see you in November," said Pastor Terry Fox of Emmanuel Baptist Church of Wichita.
But opponents of the measure were ecstatic over the results.
"This is a very good day," said Tiffany Muller, of Kansas Unity and Pride Alliance. "This resolution was about discrimination and promoting a political agenda," she said.
State Rep. William Kassebaum, R-Burdick, was one of the lawmakers who switched his position, voting for the amendment in March, but against it today.
He said that earlier in the session, after the Senate initially had rejected the amendment, he saw that some senators were subjected to "animosity and even hatred."
"Those emotions don't belong in a constitutional debate, and if this issue does engender those emotions then something is not right and we are not focusing on the constitutional aspects of this problem," Kassebaum said.
Kansas law already states that marriage can only be between one man and one woman, but supporters of the ballot proposition say the constitution needs to be amended to protect traditional marriage against possible court intervention.
The measure has been one of the most hotly contested of the 2004 legislative session.
Today, debate was relatively short, but the roll call vote was kept open for 35 minutes.
Supporters even hurried back one representative who had been conducting business in Florida so that he could vote for the proposal.