In promoting a Kansas constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and civil unions for gay couples, some Kansans suggest the debate's outcome will affect the country's moral health.
The Kansas house federal and state affairs committee on Tuesday opened three days of hearings on a proposed amendment to the Kansas constitution, which has already been adopted by the senate. The measure's supporters said it will help check moral decay. "The United States of America and its government were founded on biblical principles," said the Reverend Cecil Washington, pastor of the New Beginning Baptist Church in Topeka. "These historical principles are being eroded, and once that happens, where will we get our ethics?"
Atty. Gen. Phill Kline also urged the committee to adopt the proposed amendment, saying it would protect the state's traditional definition of marriage--in law since 1867--as a union of one man and one woman. He said if courts can allow gay marriage, they can also limit legislators' power to prohibit behavior such as polygamy and incest. "We are toying with the foundations of representative government," Kline said, calling the proposed amendment an "unfortunate necessity" because of
Supporters hope legislators adopt the proposed amendment by February 11 so that it will go on the ballot April 5, when Kansas also holds city and school board elections. The house committee was to continue hearings Wednesday and Thursday, and Chairman John Edmonds, a Republican from Great Bend, said he expects a vote early next week.
Meanwhile, college and high school students who oppose the amendment planned a statehouse rally at noon Sunday. Opponents argue the measure is discriminatory. Some suggest it could affect private companies offering health benefits to gay employees' partners or unmarried heterosexual couples.
Tom Witt, field director for Equality Kansas, a Wichita group opposing the amendment, called Kline's arguments "obnoxious." Witt said of other supporters, "They were saying America is going to the dogs because of homosexuals. The problem with that argument is that there are going to be gay families, whether we ban gay marriage or not, whether we have civil rights or not."
The proposed amendment says only traditional marriages are valid and only such unions are entitled to the "rights and incidents" associated with marriage. The Reverend Jerry Johnston, pastor of Overland Park's First Family Church, warned that if marriage isn't protected, God could permit the nation's slow
deterioration as punishment. If gay marriages are allowed, he said, "other deviant behaviors will seek
normalization and acceptance."
Tiffany Muller, a Topeka city council member and lobbyist for the Kansans for Equal Justice Project, said such arguments are predictable. "The arguments of the downfall of society and so forth are the same arguments every time there's an advancement in civil rights," she said. (AP)