Archive for Thursday, February 10, 2005

Legislators explain gay marriage votes

February 10, 2005

Leavenworth County's delegation to the Kansas House of Representatives was divided in its vote last week on a proposed constitutional amendment that would outlaw same-sex marriages in Kansas.

Reps. Kenny Wilk, R-Lansing, and Candy Ruff, D-Leavenworth, voted to approve the amendment, which would declare that only couples in a traditional marriage of one man and one woman would be entitled to the benefits associated with marriage.

Reps. Marti Crow, D-Leavenworth, and Ray Cox, R-Bonner Springs, voted against the measure.

The action was approved, 86-37, and now will be placed on the April 5 ballot statewide. If the amendment is approved by a simple majority of voters that day, it will become part of the Kansas Constitution.

Ruff, whose district includes the eastern side of Lansing, said the amendment "sounds like a good deal to me." She pointed out that since 1867 state law has decreed that marriage was limited to a man and a woman. The amendment, she said, is merely codifying that statute into the constitution.

Arguments that the amendment was taking away something from homosexual couples, she said, were untrue. A gay person, she said, still has legal avenues available.

"You can still enter into a legal contract. You can still leave a will. You can still assign power of attorney. You can do a number of things of a civil nature," she said.

In the final analysis, Ruff said her vote went to the root issue: "I truly believe if the state is going to recognize anything about marriage, it should be that it is between a man and a woman."

Wilk, whose district includes areas west of Main Street in Lansing, also talked about strengthening state law.

"I don't have a problem with the resolution," Wilk said. "It's codifying current law and actually putting it into the constitution."

Crow, whose district takes in most of the city of Leavenworth, said she didn't understand the need to codify state law into the Kansas Constitution. But she said her main concern was with the proposal's second section, which states, "No relationship, other than a marriage, shall be recognized by the state as entitling the parties to the rights or incidents of marriage."

She noted that the 'rights and incidents of marriage' were not defined anywhere in state statutes. She called the section "very poorly drafted" and said it could have inadvertent consequences.

"I think it's going to create a great deal of problems for people they aren't intended to affect," Crow said, including, for example, grandparents or other relatives who raise children whose parents are deceased or incarcerated.

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