Marriage equality was a hot topic in Monday and Tuesday’s debates between Kansas governor Sam Brownback and challenger Paul Davis, with Brownback vowing to defend the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.
“I stand with the people of Kansas that marriage is the union of a man and a woman,” Brownback, a Republican, said in the race’s final debate Tuesday in Wichita. “They voted that in the state by nearly 70 percent, put it in the constitution … and now you’ve got judges seeking to rewrite that.” He asked if voters wanted a governor who would appoint “liberal judges,” as he said Davis would, or one who would select “judges who stay with the law, like I appoint.”
Democratic candidate Davis, currently minority leader in the Kansas House of Representatives, noted that he did not support the amendment when legislators voted on it. “I thought it would damage the welcoming image that Kansas has had,” he said. He said neither he nor Brownback could do anything about the issue now, as it is in the hands of the courts.
A federal judge will hear a case Friday seeking immediate marriage equality in Kansas. The American Civil Liberties Union has requested a temporary injunction against the state’s ban, saying it would bring Kansas into line with a ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit. That court struck down bans in two other states in the circuit, Utah and Oklahoma, and this month the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review that decision, letting the ruling for marriage equality stand. Colorado and Wyoming have since allowed same-sex marriage, and New Mexico already did, leaving Kansas as the only state in the circuit without equal marriage rights.
A state-level judge in Johnson County — Kansas’s most populous county, which encompasses many Kansas City suburbs — ruled this month that the county should offer marriage licenses to same-sex couples, but the state Supreme Court has put that ruling on hold. One couple received a license while it was in effect.
Brownback, a former U.S. senator, also spoke out against same-sex marriage over the weekend at a Wichita rally organized by the antigay Family Research Council. “We need to push forward our candidates that stand for this country, that stand for faith, that stand for family, that stand for freedom,” he said, according to The Wichita Eagle. Other speakers at the rally included Republican congressman Tim Huelskamp, a staunch opponent of marriage equality, and Josh Duggar, a member of the conservative Christian family featured on the reality show 19 Kids and Counting.
You can view Tuesday’s debate below; the discussion of marriage equality begins about the 31:30 mark. Davis also brings up Brownback’s support for “license to discriminate” legislation, which would allow business operators to refuse service to customers who offend their religious principles — for instance, LGBT people or members of different faiths. A bill to this effect died in this year’s Kansas legislative session.