The Kansas house on Wednesday approved an amendment to the Kansas constitution banning marriage and civil unions for same-sex couples, advancing the measure in time to get it on the April 5 ballot. The vote was 86-37, three more than the two-thirds majority necessary. The proposed amendment would declare that only couples in a traditional marriage of one man and one woman would be entitled to the benefits associated with marriage.
In a statewide vote a simple majority would change the constitution. The senate adopted the proposed amendment last month. The house rejected a similar proposal last year, surprising and angering clergy and others who'd supported it. They also were frustrated because of the approval of similar amendments in 13 other states last November.
But some critics, including Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, questioned whether amending the constitution is necessary. Kansas law has recognized only marriages between one man and one woman since 1867. Others argued that the proposed amendment could be broad enough to limit the rights of unmarried heterosexual couples or keep private companies from offering benefits to partners of gay employees. The amendment's supporters disagree.
A similar debate arose in Utah, one of the states that last year adopted an amendment banning same-sex marriage. However, the Utah senate on Tuesday rejected the establishment of a domestic-partner registry to protect the rights of unmarried gay and heterosexual couples, with lawmakers saying it wasn't necessary. In Kansas, critics also attacked the proposed amendment as discrimination against gays and lesbians. "We are, in essence, saying, 'You are second-class citizens,'" said Democratic representative Paul Davis of Lawrence.
Supporters argued that amending the constitution would protect the state's traditional definition of marriage from legal challenges. They also said the state should declare its support for traditional families because they are vital to society. Others worried about what they see as a growing tolerance for homosexuality. "It is very clear in the Scriptures that this lifestyle is an abomination unto the Lord," said Republican representative Bill McCreary of Wellington. "If we look at the Scriptures, the truth lies there." This year supporters wanted to beat a February 11 deadline to get the measure on the ballot in April, when Kansas also holds city and school board elections. (AP)