The Kansas senate is likely to vote this week on a proposed amendment to the state's constitution banning same-sex marriage, majority leader Derek Schmidt said Monday. Schmidt disclosed plans to handle the proposal with unusual speed as both supporters and opponents of an amendment gathered at the statehouse for separate rallies.
The proposal will mirror a measure that senators approved last year, which also would ban civil unions or other forms of legal recognition for same-sex relationships, Schmidt said. He expects a vote on Thursday.
Some backers of a proposed amendment want legislators to put it on the ballot April 5, when Kansas also holds city and school board elections. To do that, both chambers must adopt a proposal by February 11. Leaders of the senate's Republican majority don't plan to have a committee review the proposal or to hold public hearings, Schmidt said. "The senate spent considerable time in committee hearings and deliberations last year," Schmidt said. "We believe it's still fresh in everybody's minds."
Both chambers must adopt a proposed amendment by two-thirds majorities for it to go on the ballot, where approval by a simple majority of voters is necessary to add it to the constitution. Some supporters wanted quick action by legislators, having watched voters in 13 states, including neighboring Missouri, amend their constitutions.
Kansas law has defined marriage as a union only between one man and one woman since 1867, but amendment supporters contend that it will protect that policy from a legal challenge. They argue traditional marriages form the strongest families and underpin society.
Some critics question whether an amendment is necessary, and others view it as discriminatory. Tiffany Muller, chairwoman of the Kansans for Justice and Equality Project, which opposes the amendment, said legislators need time to study the possible effects of the amendment. For example, she said, it could prevent local governments and even private companies from offering health benefits to workers' partners. "I think it's an incredible disservice to sound public policy to run this without any public hearings," she said.
But senate minority leader Anthony Hensley said he supports the decision to move quickly. Last year Hensley voted against the proposal. "With the major issues facing us this session, like education and health care, we need to dispense with this issue as quickly as possible," he said.