A proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriages and prevent Kansas from granting other forms of legal recognition to same-sex relationships received a house committee's endorsement Tuesday. A 1996 Kansas law already says the only valid marriages in Kansas are between one man and one woman. The proposed amendment would add a similar statement to the constitution, plus a prohibition on granting benefits associated with marriage to other relationships. On a voice vote, the Federal and State Affairs Committee sent the measure to the entire house for debate. "If we want to have that law and protect that law, then this probably needs to be in the constitution," said committee chairman Bill Mason (R-El Dorado), a supporter of the proposal.
If two-thirds majorities in both legislative chambers adopt the proposed amendment, it will be submitted to voters in the November 2 general election, when a simple majority will be necessary to change the constitution. Both supporters and opponents expect voter approval. Backers of the amendment said they want to prevent a Kansas court from invalidating the law prohibiting gay marriages, just as Massachusetts's highest court struck down a similar "defense of marriage" statute in that state. Thirty-nine states, including Kansas and Massachusetts, have similar laws, but legislators in at least 15 of them are considering constitutional changes. Four states already have constitutional amendments either banning same-sex marriages or giving the legislature the power to ban same-sex marriages: Alaska, Hawaii, Nebraska, and Nevada.