Candidates say same-sex marriage is not an issue in 2nd District congressional race
Topeka ? Ten years ago, same-sex marriage was a dominant political issue in many states and one that some analysts believe swayed that year’s presidential elections.
But that’s not the case this year, at least not in the Kansas 2nd Congressional District, where both major candidates say they believe voters are focused on other matters.
“The Supreme Court has spoken, or not spoken in this situation,” said Rep. Lynn Jenkins, a Republican seeking her fourth term in Congress. “So by default the court says it’s not constitutional, so before too long, that will be a law.”
Margie Wakefield, the Democrat challenging Jenkins this year, agreed.
“I do not see it as a dominant issue this year,” she said. “I think it has become so mainstream. There are just so many important issues — and I’m not saying more important, because it is very important to the people involved — but important issues that the country, and certainly here, we have our eyes on.”
On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court let stand five different lower court rulings that struck down state laws and constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage.
Two of those cases came from the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which also has jurisdiction over Kansas. In both cases, the appellate court struck down state constitutional amendments that voters in those states approved in 2004.
That year, 13 states put constitutional amendments on the November ballot, a move that many analysts have said helped President George W. Bush win re-election by turning out conservative voters in swing states like Ohio and Missouri. In most cases, the ballot measures passed by huge margins.
Kansas followed suit the following spring by passing a constitutional amendment that defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman and prohibiting the state from recognizing any other kind of marriage. Voters approved that measure, 70-30 percent, with majorities supporting the measure in every county except Douglas County.
Since then, though, polls have shown the tide of public opinion has turned in favor of allowing same-sex marriage.
The most recent poll by CBS News and the New York Times found 56 percent of Americans believe it should be legal for same-sex couples to marry.
Jenkins, a former state legislator, had already left the Kansas Senate and was serving as state treasurer when the marriage amendment was debated. “I didn’t even read it,” she said this week. “In the treasurer’s office it certainly wasn’t a big issue.”
“I think it’s not an issue that people are particularly ginned up about,” Jenkins said when asked how important the issue is this year. “When you’ve got the economy struggling like it is nationwide, people are really focused on the policies coming out of Washington right now.”
Wakefield agreed, although she said voters are talking to her about different issues.
“Right now people are so concerned about public education and the economy,” Wakefield said. “The drop in revenue here in Kansas, the failure to extend Medicaid to help people here in Kansas. These are the things people are talking to me about.”