Left for dead a month ago, a proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage faces only one legislative hurdle to getting on the November ballot. But that hurdle--a house vote--could prove to be a big one.
Supporters and opponents alike attribute the measure's resurrection to pressure from conservative clergy and other Kansans who view the proposed addition to the Kansas constitution as an important moral statement as well as a policy issue. The proposed amendment states that Kansas recognizes marriage only between one man and one woman and denies the benefits of marriage to other domestic
arrangements, such as same-sex civil unions.
The senate adopted the measure Saturday on a 27-13 vote, just over the two-thirds majority necessary for approval of a constitutional change.
The house planned to vote Tuesday on the proposed amendment. The vote originally was set for Monday, but two supporters were out of state on personal business. The postponing of action suggested the vote would be close. "I believe I really see evidence of a sleeping giant being awakened in this state, and I rejoice in that," said Sen. Bob Lyon. "I remain unabashedly committed to restoring a biblical foundation for this state."
But some opponents argue that Lyon and other backers of the amendment want to impose their religious views on the state--and write discrimination against gays and lesbians into the constitution.
"I care about it because I think it strikes at the very nature of freedom," said Sen. David Adkins, the only senator to have publicly declared support for gay marriage. "I just think Kansas is better than this."
Kansas already has a statute on its books declaring that the state will recognize marriage only as the union of one man and one woman. However, some legislators believe the policy also should be written into the Kansas constitution, making it harder for a court or future legislature to revise the policy.
The Reverend Terry Fox, senior pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church west of Interstate 135 in Wichita, said the issue still will be important in elections and that he and other clergy intend to register thousands of new voters. He said denominations like his are working with other Protestant denominations and the Catholic Church. "The body of Christ is going to vote this fall," he said. "We've suspended our differences on theology to come together on cultural issues."