Archive for Friday, November 5, 2004

Kansas Christians seek same-sex marriage vote

November 5, 2004


— Invigorated by election victories from the White House to the Statehouse, fundamentalist Christian leaders in Kansas said Thursday they would push again to put on the ballot a prohibition against same-sex marriages.

"I believe the tide has swung strongly for us," said Terry Fox, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Wichita. "This is a national movement."

Voters on Tuesday approved constitutional amendments to ban same-sex marriage in all 11 states where the issue was on the ballot, most by huge margins.

"We think it is a shame and disgrace that Kansans didn't have this to vote on as well," said the Rev. Joe Wright, pastor of Central Christian Church in Wichita.

In a contentious debate during the Kansas Legislature's last session, a move to put such a proposal on the ballot narrowly failed. It takes a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate to advance proposed constitutional amendments to the ballot for voter consideration.

Several opponents of that proposal have either retired from the Legislature or were defeated at the polls.

"The landscape has totally changed," Fox said.

Rep. Paul Davis, a Lawrence Democrat, opposes efforts to place a ban on same-sex marriage in the constitution. And he said the ministers might be wrong in their assessment of the Legislature.

"I'm not sure the votes are there," Davis said.

He said bringing up the issue again would detract from work on education and health care, but he expected supporters of the amendment to resume their efforts when the Legislature convenes in January.

"It's a big issue to a very narrow group of people who are pretty loud," he said.

But Fox and Wright said election results from across the country showed voters wanted to be heard on the issue.

Wright said the amendments brought Christian voters to the polls in record numbers and helped President Bush carry Ohio, which gave him the election. Bush has stated his support for a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, while Democrat nominee Sen. John Kerry said it was a matter best left to the states.

"If that hadn't been on the ballot in Ohio, it's a good possibility that Kerry would be the president rather than Bush," Wright said.

Kansas University political science professor Allan Cigler said one of the biggest missed stories of the presidential campaign was the issue of gay marriage.

It was part of a "whisper campaign" that received little attention but was instrumental in getting millions of fundamentalist Christians to the polls to vote for Bush, he said.

Tiffany Muller, chairwoman of the Kansans for Justice and Equality Project, opposed the amendment this year before the Kansas Legislature. She said her group was better organized now and would work to defeat a constitutional same-sex marriage ban if it came up again.

"I recognize that after Tuesday's results, it is going to be hard, but writing discrimination into our constitution is wrong and we are going to try to defeat it," she said.

Muller agreed with Davis that the results of the legislative contests in Kansas were difficult to gauge in relation to the same-sex marriage issue.

"The nation took a right turn, but in Kansas it looks about the same," she said.

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