Both sides predict lawsuits over Kansas's gay marriage ban

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April 07 2005 12:00 AM ET

Kansans voted
overwhelmingly in favor of amending their state
constitution to ban not only same-sex marriage but also
civil unions, but supporters and opponents of the
measure are predicting lengthy court battles as a result.
The ban reaffirms the state's long-standing
policy of recognizing only marriages between one man
and one woman. It also declares that only such unions
are entitled to the "rights and incidents" of marriage,
prohibiting the state from authorizing civil unions for gay
couples. With final, unofficial results from 104 of
the state's 105 counties on Tuesday, 414,235, or 70%,
voted yes, and 178,167, or 29% voted no.
Critics argue that the amendment could have
unexpected consequences, such as potentially
preventing companies from offering health benefits to
employees' partners--gay or straight.
Matt Foreman, executive director of the National
Gay and Lesbian Task Force, predicted the amendment
will spawn lawsuits in Kansas courts as gays,
lesbians, and unmarried heterosexuals encounter problems.
"Does this impact living wills?" he asked. "Powers of
attorney? Custody agreements? The enforcement of
custody agreements?"
The Reverend Terry Fox, senior pastor of
Wichita's Immanuel Baptist Church and a leader of the
effort to pass the amendment, also predicted a legal
attack by opponents. He was confident the amendment would
withstand scrutiny. "We always felt like if Kansans
were given an opportunity to vote, they would vote
strongly to protect marriage and defend marriage in
the way it has traditionally been defined," Fox said.
Voters in 13 states, including Missouri and
Oklahoma, approved constitutional bans on gay marriage
last year, joining four others. Similar proposals will
be on the ballot next year in Alabama, South Dakota,
and Tennessee.
Meanwhile in Connecticut, lawmakers said Tuesday
they believe they have enough votes to pass a bill
that would make the state the first to recognize civil
unions between same-sex couples without intervention from
the courts.
Some Kansas voters, like 24-year-old Eric
Hetzel, saw the amendment as a way to protect the
traditional definition of marriage, enshrined in
Kansas law since 1867, from legal challenges. "I am a
Christian," Hetzel said. "I believe in the Bible and
what it says that marriage is between a man and a woman."
But Byron Defreese, a 65-year-old retiree,
called the amendment "total foolishness." "I don't
know how this is going to defend my marriage of 43
years," he said. "I think it's a diversion from the real
issues." (AP)

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