Coalition forms to fight for equality

? A new group formed to fight discrimination based on sexual orientation better be ready for a fight from some conservative church leaders who are veterans of the Kansas political fray.

The Rev. Terry Fox, the Wichita minister who wields statewide political clout after successfully pushing for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, said gays and lesbians should be prohibited from adopting or providing child care.

“When you have the view that homosexuality is not a healthy lifestyle, then why would you want to put children in a non-healthy lifestyle?” Fox said.

“I would be very much in favor of stronger policies prohibiting gays and lesbians from adopting and child care. We will encourage the Legislature to review those policies,” he said.

Opposition to the agenda championed by Fox and others has, in part, led to the formation of the Kansas Equality Coalition, a statewide nonpartisan group.

Diane Silver, of Lawrence, vice chairwoman of the organization, said it was dedicated to ending discrimination for all Kansans.

“We just want to see all people in the state treated fairly, and we do not want to limit anyone’s rights, including the religious right and people who have been taking away our rights,” she said.

Silver said the Kansas gay community was minding its own business when Fox and several other ministers got the Legislature to place on the ballot a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

Voters approved the measure 70 percent to 30 percent in April as Kansas became the 18th state in the nation to have such a provision. Activists and attorneys are still trying to figure out the breadth and scope of the amendment.

“We were attacked,” Silver said. “They came after us. It is now in the Constitution that we can’t even petition the Legislature for the right to visit our life partners in the hospital.”

This new coalition will try to educate Kansans on issues on the horizon, Silver said.

For example, she said, Kansans need to know that prohibiting gays from adopting could also prevent singles from adopting, could tear children from the only families they have known, or prevent abandoned children from experiencing the love of a family.

“It would really hurt a lot of children,” she said.

The group, which includes gays, heterosexuals, bisexuals and transgendered people, has formed chapters in Lawrence, Topeka, Johnson County, Wichita and the Manhattan area.

Fox said he has heard of the new group and welcomes them to the political fray.

“The more they talk, the more people join our side. They are out of the mainstream with what the average Kansan feels,” he said.

But Silver disagreed, saying most Kansans want fairness.

“It’s the Golden Rule and there is nothing radical about that,” she said.