Topeka The executive director of a gay rights group asked Kansas legislators on Wednesday to repeal an unenforced law that makes sex between consenting adults of the same gender a crime.
Tom Witt of the Kansas Equality Coalition testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is considering a bill making other technical changes to state criminal statutes. The committee took no action on the bill and no one testified in opposition to the change.
The provision in question has been unenforceable since 2003 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that such laws are unconstitutional.
Witt said the statute has the effect of "making it illegal to be gay or lesbian" in Kansas.
"Kansans are still being harassed by government officials, who use this law as justification to engage in legalized discrimination and intimidation," he said.
Sen. Tim Owens said it was hard to tell if legislators go for the changes this year, though there were other provision in the bill that have an impact on prison bed space for other crimes that could cause problems.
House members declined to remove the statute in 2011 when that chamber considered a similar bill making technical changes. However, a Senate committee approved a separate bill that repealed the Kansas law but it never was debated by the full Senate.
"That should not be an issue with this chamber," said Owens, an Overland Park Republican.
Ed Klumpp, a representative of the commission that recommended the changes, said the issue has become a "political hand grenade" in recent years even though the law isn't being enforced.
"It sounds pretty straight-forward and simple," he told the committee.
The Kansas Equality Coalition has repeated asked Gov. Sam Brownback's administration to recommend the law be repealed. The Republican governor gave Secretary of Administration Dennis Taylor the task of identifying laws and regulations deemed burdensome, inefficient and unnecessary when he signed an executive order in 2011 establishing the Office of the Repealer.
Taylor has submitted a list of 51 laws, rules and other government regulations targeted for removal. He has said other provisions recommended to his office for removal are under review, without speaking directly to the sodomy laws.
Kansas voters adopted a constitutional amendment in April 2005 stating that it only recognizes on marriages between one man and one woman.