Kansas senators on Thursday debated a proposed amendment to the state constitution to ban gay marriage, with the outcome to determine whether the measure goes on the ballot. The proposed amendment declares that only marriages between one man and one woman are valid. The measure also says the state shall not extend benefits normally associated with marriage to any other relationship, effectively prohibiting civil unions or domestic partnerships for same-sex couples.
The house approved the proposed amendment earlier this month. If the senate makes no changes and adopts the measure by a two-thirds majority, voters would decide its fate in the November 2 general election. The measure is a response to a November ruling by Massachusetts's highest court, which found it unconstitutional in that state to ban gay marriage.
A 1996 Kansas law already bans gay marriage, but supporters have said the amendment's adoption would protect the statute from being invalidated by a Kansas court. "Tomorrow, later today, five minutes from now, the Kansas supreme court might say, 'We find that unconstitutional. We change our minds,"' said Sen. Tim Huelskamp (R-Fowler).
Supporters also argued that the amendment would uphold long-cherished values and that families formed by traditional marriages are the foundation of American society. "There are just not studies that don't prove that isn't best for our children," said Sen. Susan Wagle (R-Wichita). And Sen. Robert Tyson (R-Parker) added: "You're either voting for the homosexual family or the traditional Kansas family."
But opponents have argued that the amendment would write antigay discrimination into the state constitution. They also have suggested that the amendment would face a legal challenge in the federal courts. Sen. David Adkins called the proposed amendment "a documented waste of legislative resources."
"Consideration of this matter at this particular time is wholly unnecessary," said Adkins (R-Leawood). "There isn't a single court challenge. There isn't single marriage license that's been issued in defiance of state law." Kansas is one of 34 states with a law banning gay marriage, but legislators in at least 15 of those states are considering constitutional amendments. Four states--Alaska, Hawaii, Nebraska, and Nevada--have constitutional provisions regarding same-sex marriage.