South Dakota legislators decided Wednesday that voters should get to decide if a ban on gay marriage should be added to the state constitution. A measure that would put the issue on the ballot easily cleared the house state affairs committee on a 10-2 vote, sending it to the house floor. Republican representative Elizabeth Kraus of Rapid City said that although state law already defines marriage as a union of one man and one woman, courts in other states have ruled differently. She said placing a gay marriage ban in the state constitution would protect traditional marriages in South Dakota. Kraus noted that South Dakota was the first state to pass a law that defined marriage, doing so in 1996. "South Dakota has led the nation in protecting marriage," Kraus said. "We need to amend our constitution to guard against activist judges."
Opponents, however, said such an amendment would discriminate against gays and lesbians. They also worried that wording of the measure could interfere with contracts between gays that deal with such things as ownership of property and inheritance rights. "Discrimination does not belong in our state constitution," said Michael Oatman, a gay Mobridge businessman who has been partnered for 13 years.
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