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Archive for Tuesday, May 4, 2004

Vote on gay marriage ban awaits supporters’ return

May 4, 2004

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— House leaders postponed debate on a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage Monday because two supporters were out of state.

The proposed addition to the Kansas Constitution cleared the Senate on Saturday with the minimum two-thirds approval necessary for submitting a constitutional amendment to voters. Passage was uncertain in the House, where the debate and vote were rescheduled for Tuesday.

"If it fails, it will fail by one or two votes," said House Speaker Doug Mays, R-Topeka, who supports the amendment. "If it passes, it will pass by one or two votes."

The proposed amendment states that Kansas recognizes marriage only between one man and one woman and denies the legal benefits of marriage to other domestic arrangements, such as civil unions.

Eighty-four favorable votes in the 125-member House would put the measure on the November ballot. A slightly different version of the amendment won House passage in March on an 88-36 vote.

On Monday, two supporters of the measure were out of state. Rep. Dan Williams, R-Olathe, was in Florida, where he starts a new job when the legislative session ends, and Rep. Larry Powell, R-Kalvesta, was returning from a family funeral in North Dakota.

Several House members said their absences could have caused the measure to fail. Rep. Rick Rehorn, D-Kansas City, said some House members who voted for the earlier version were reconsidering their positions.

"It could go either way," Rehorn, who opposes the proposed amendment, said in an interview.

The proposed amendment says:

"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 declaring the state's policy of recognizing marriage only as the union of one man and one woman.

Some legislators believe the statute makes the amendment unnecessary, but others say putting the policy into the Kansas Constitution would keep it from being revised by a court or future Legislature.

Proponents also say passing the amendment would show strong support for long-cherished values. Opponents contend it would invite a court challenge and would enshrine discrimination in the Kansas Constitution.

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Marriage amendment is HCR 5005.

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