Legislative negotiators have agreed that a proposed amendment to the Kansas constitution banning same-sex marriage should also deny legal recognition to other same-sex arrangements such as civil unions. The language, drafted Thursday, is similar to a proposed amendment adopted in March by the house. The senate last month rejected a narrower version that addressed only gay marriage. Two thirds of both chambers must approve the same language for a proposed amendment to the constitution to be placed before voters in November. Negotiators were also drafting an explanation of their proposal for voters, to appear on the ballot with the proposition. The task required additional talks.
Senate negotiators said they do not know whether the compromise language would win approval in their chamber, which would consider the measure first. House adoption is considered likely. But senate president Dave Kerr (R-Hutchinson) said, after negotiators met Thursday, "I think that it has a good chance." Supporters of a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and civil unions said they were satisfied with the new language. "It sounds like they're coming out with a strong amendment to put before the people," the Reverend Terry Fox, senior pastor at Wichita's Immanuel Southern Baptist Church, said Thursday. "Frankly, we will not compromise on anything less than a strong amendment." The Reverend Joe Wright, senior pastor at Wichita's Central Christian Church, said a ban would be meaningless if same-sex couples still could receive the benefits normally associated with marriage through a civil union or domestic partnership. Wright and others have argued that preserving a special legal status for traditional marriages is important because they form the strongest families--the foundation of American society. "Government didn't establish holy matrimony--God did," Wright said after Thursday's meeting. "That's the healthiest relationship for a child to grow up with."
Tiffany Muller, chairwoman of Topeka's Equal Justice Coalition, said supporters of gay rights are "opposed to any language that is discriminatory being put in the constitution and on the public ballot." "Trying to preclude any future granting of any rights or equality is reprehensible," Muller said. Some critics, including Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, have questioned whether a constitutional amendment is necessary. Kansas is among 39 states that have laws on their books asserting that they recognize marriage as existing only between one man and one woman. Four states have "defense of marriage" provisions in their constitutions: Alaska, Hawaii, Nebraska, and Nevada.