Topeka vote enthuses gay rights groups

But supporters of same-sex marriage ban say ordinance's rejection doesn't reflect state's mood

? Gay rights advocates Wednesday said rejection of an anti-gay city ordinance in Topeka may bode well for efforts to defeat a statewide same-sex marriage ban on the ballot in April.

“It’s time to move on past the politics of division and derision,” said Lawrence resident Bruce Ney, chairman of Kansans for Fairness.

But proponents of a constitutional amendment that would prohibit gay marriage and civil unions said the Topeka vote shouldn’t be seen as an indicator of the statewide mood.

“I don’t think it will have any effect,” said the Rev. Terry Fox, of Wichita, except “to say to Christians we have to get out and vote.”

In Topeka, the proposed ordinance would have repealed an ordinance prohibiting discrimination against homosexuals in city government hiring. It was defeated Tuesday, 53 percent to 47 percent.

The repeal ordinance was put on the ballot through a petition drive headed by the Rev. Fred Phelps Sr., who is known nationwide for his anti-gay demonstrations.

The defeat of the Phelps ordinance has energized supporters of gay rights, Ney said.

In November, constitutional provisions banning same-sex marriage were approved in all 11 states where the question was on the ballot. But Ney said Kansas could break the streak.

“The option is there for Kansas to do something different, and that is what is beautiful about Kansas,” he said.

He said Kansans have supported candidates with more moderate views over conservatives in recent statewide elections, such as Bill Graves’ Republican Party gubernatorial primary victory over David Miller in 1998, and Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’ win in 2002 over Republican Tim Shallenburger.

But Fox predicted Kansans would support the same-sex marriage ban by at least 70 percent of the vote.

The Topeka election was more about dissatisfaction with Phelps, whose family protests daily carrying signs that say “God Hates Fags,” among other things. Opponents of the state amendment have pledged to link it to Phelps in their campaign, as well.

“With the Phelps people involved, that helped defeat it,” Fox said. Kansans will approve the constitutional amendment because it deals with marriage, and “that strikes a whole different chord.”