Kentucky lawmakers send marriage ban to voters
April 15 2004 12:00 AM ET
The Kentucky senate on Tuesday gave its final consent to a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriages. Now the voters will decide the issue. The senate passed the measure 33-5, placing it on the November ballot. The proposal also would deny legal recognition of civil unions. At least one critic warned that the proposal might face one more obstacle--a possible court challenge. The senate vote culminated weeks of intense debate and political maneuvering that gripped the house, where the measure had stalled until winning passage in a dramatic vote Monday night. Sen. Ernesto Scorsone, Kentucky's only openly gay legislator, said lawmakers had bowed to a "mob mentality." Large crowds mobilized by the Family Foundation, a Lexington-based conservative group, had converged on the capitol in recent weeks to push for the amendment. Kentucky already has a law that prohibits same-sex marriages.
Supporters of the proposed amendment insist that writing the prohibition into the state constitution is the only way to safeguard it against any court challenge. Scorsone scoffed at those fears. "The reality is that there is no case in the legal pipeline right now in Kentucky that could possibly upset that statute," said Scorsone (D-Lexington). "Everybody knows it here. There is no crisis or emergency, but yet we're rushing to change the constitution."
Proposed constitutional bans on same-sex marriage in other states as well as in Kentucky were spurred by a Massachusetts supreme judicial court ruling in November that barring gay couples from marriage was unconstitutional. Mayors in some cities across the country have permitted unsanctioned same-sex weddings. "We're trying to act proactive rather than reactive," said Sen. Vernie McGaha (R-Russell Springs), lead sponsor of the amendment in Kentucky. "There are trends around the nation, and we'd like to get in front of the trend before it comes to Kentucky." The senate vote was an anticlimactic finale to a drama that had turned the capitol into a cultural battleground. The senate vote came on the final day of the 2004 general assembly's regular session. The measure would define marriage solely as a union between a man and a woman.