Brownback: Kansas should defend gay marriage ban

? Republican Gov. Sam Brownback said Tuesday that Kansas should defend the state constitution’s ban on gay marriage in court because it was enacted through a statewide vote, while Democrat Paul Davis’ campaign described him as focused on other issues.

Brownback is in a tough race for re-election, and his public support for the gay marriage ban in the face of adverse court decisions could energize conservative Catholics and Christian evangelicals who’ve been a key part of his political base ahead of the Nov. 4 election. Davis, the Kansas House minority leader, opposed the gay-marriage ban as a lawmaker, but he’s portraying himself as a bipartisan centrist in wooing disaffected Republicans.

The Kansas GOP’s platform supports “traditional” marriage as “the foundation of society,” while the Democratic counterpart says, “Kansas Democrats support marriage equality.”

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected appeals from five states seeking to maintain gay-marriage bans, including Utah, which is in the same federal appeals court circuit as Kansas. Gay couples in several counties seeking marriage licenses were turned away, and the American Civil Liberties Union expects to file a federal lawsuit.

Kansas amended its constitution in 2005 — with nearly 70 percent of voters approving the measure — to ban gay marriage and deny same-sex couples any “rights or incidents” associated with marriage. Brownback issued a statement Monday saying, “activist judges should not overrule the people of Kansas.”

Brownback told reporters Tuesday that “the state of Kansas should defend how the people have spoken and how the people have voted.”

“I don’t know much more you can bolster it than to have a vote of the people to put in the constitution that marriage is the union of a man and a woman,” Brownback said.

Davis spokesman Chris Pumpelly said the Democrat’s agenda includes improving the economy, boosting funding for public schools and “working across the aisle to solve problems.” As for gay marriage, Pumpelly said, “Moving forward, this issue will likely be determined by the courts. As governor, Paul will focus on priorities that unite Kansans.”

In the Kansas House, Davis voted against a proposed ban three times in 2004 and 2005.

“It’s important for Kansas to portray a welcoming image,” Pumpelly said.

Both Brownback’s support for the ban and Davis’ hesitancy to publicly embrace gay marriage frustrated Tom Witt, the executive director of the advocacy group Equality Kansas.

“We’re tired of being political stepchildren at best and a political football at worst,” he said. “I would just like to see elected officials of any political affiliation say that LGBT Kansans deserve the same rights as anybody else.”

Meanwhile, the Rev. Terry Fox, a prominent Southern Baptist minister in Wichita and a leader in the 2004-05 campaign for Kansas’ gay marriage ban, said some fellow conservatives are concerned that Brownback hasn’t been vocal on social issues to energize the bloc.

“What’s happened could be a game-changer in Kansas,” Fox said. “Brownback is being given one more opportunity.”