Ministers push for April vote to ban gay marriage
Topeka Timing may be everything in a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage in Kansas.
Some ministers leading the charge for the amendment want the proposal on the ballot April 5, the same time voters go to the polls in city and school board elections.
"It's a hot issue now and it's on people's minds," said the Rev. Terry Fox, of Immanuel Baptist Church in Wichita.
But some conservative legislators are asking the ministers to hold their fire and sign onto a plan to put the measure on the November 2006 ballot.
"My personal opinion would be you would want it on the ballot when most people would go to the polls, and that would be during the next general election," said House Majority Leader Clay Aurand, a Republican from Courtland.
Aurand's reasoning has raised the suspicions of some Democrats. They theorize conservative politicians want the amendment on the ballot at the same time Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat, will be up for re-election, because it will bring more conservative Republican voters to the polls.
"I think some may see it as a way to hurt the governor," said House Minority Leader Dennis McKinney, D-Greensburg.
McKinney, who supports a same-sex marriage ban, said, "If it's not political, let's put it on the ballot in April."
Rep. Kathe Decker, R-Clay Center, predicted the debate over when to put the measure on the ballot will be as contentious as the debate over the amendment itself.
Decker said she was undecided about when the best time would be to have a statewide vote on the matter.
"Some people will push to have it in two years because it will be the gubernatorial election, and some will push to have it April because it won't be the gubernatorial election. There will be politics on both sides," she said.
Fox said he planned to listen to and consider arguments on both sides of the date debate.
He said clergymen and legislators who support the same-sex marriage ban would meet soon to discuss what date would be best.
But, he said, if it appears lawmakers want to delay a vote for political reasons, "I don't think the church would look too kindly on that.
"We didn't get into this for political reasons, and if the motive would be political to wait until 2006, I would be absolutely opposed to that," he said.
Fox and other supporters were buoyed by ballot success of same-sex marriage bans in 11 states during the past general election.
In Kansas, state law prohibits same-sex marriage, but some conservatives are fighting to have the prohibition put in the Kansas Constitution.
Amendments to the constitution require a two-thirds majority in the House and Senate to put the matter on the ballot for voter consideration.
A simple majority by Kansas voters would then be needed to add the amendment to the constitution.
The proposal won by large majorities in the House and Senate during the last legislative session but narrowly missed getting the required two-thirds vote.
Supporters of a proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages think they can win the necessary two-thirds vote in the Kansas Legislature now because several legislative opponents were defeated in November.