Updated Feb. 3, 2005
TOPEKA, Kan. (BP)–Kansas legislators passed a constitutional marriage amendment Feb. 2, sending it to the state’s voters for an April 5 vote and providing pro-family groups an opportunity for another win in the national debate over same-sex “marriage.”
Needing a two-thirds majority of 83 votes the amendment passed the Kansas House 86-37. It already had passed the state Senate.
“We’re in for an incredible battle here,” Wichita pastor Terry Fox told Baptist Press, referring to the April vote. “We’re going to have to work hard and pray a lot.”
But all the news wasn’t good for national pro-family groups. In Idaho, a marriage amendment that would have banned both same-sex “marriage” and civil unions failed to pass the Idaho Senate, falling three votes short in a 21-14 vote. Now, amendment supporters may scrap the civil union language and try again.
Kansas’ amendment also bans both same-sex “marriage” and civil unions. Fox and social conservatives in Kansas can empathize with those in Idaho: Last summer the Kansas legislature also defeated a marriage amendment — shocking many in that conservative state.
Fox and other pastors subsequently worked to defeat those legislators who had voted against the amendment. On Election Day, enough of them lost to make a difference.
“I’ve given a solid year of my life to this cause,” Fox, pastor of Wichita’s Immanuel Baptist Church, said. “My church has been extremely involved.”
Including Idaho, legislatures in at least 15 states nationwide are considering adding marriage amendments to their respective constitutions. Sixteen states already have passed such amendments, including 13 last year alone. A 17th state, Hawaii, passed an amendment that gives the state legislature the power to ban same-sex “marriage.”
The amendments prevent state courts from legalizing same-sex “marriage” — which is what Massachusetts’ high court did. But because the amendments are vulnerable in federal court, pro-family leaders are pushing for a marriage amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Lawsuits seeking to legalize same-sex “marriage” are brewing in eight state courts and in federal courts in California and Oklahoma.
“Kansas is in the heartland of America, and the liberals know that if they can defeat a marriage amendment here and redefine marriage, you can kiss the national constitutional marriage amendment goodbye,” said Fox, a supporter of an amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Kansas legislators debated whether to place the amendment on the April ballot or on the 2006 ballot. A 2006 vote presumably would have boosted the prospects of conservative candidates — mostly Republicans — since marriage amendments have proven popular among social conservatives. Last year’s 13 amendments passed with an average of 70.8 percent of the vote.
Fox, though, wanted an April 5 vote.
“We felt like it was important that we get it out in April versus 2006 because we wanted this to be seen not as a Republican or a Democrat issue,” he said. “We didn’t want to see the marriage amendment played like a political football. We wanted people in Kansas to see that it really is a true moral issue between right and wrong.”
Already, homosexual activists groups are plotting strategy. Because the amendment likely will be the only one on a ballot nationwide this spring, liberal groups will have the opportunity to concentrate on one state — a luxury they did not have last Election Day.
“They’re going to be calling on all of the support from the homosexual agenda from the other 49 states to come into Kansas and fight this,” Fox said.
During the past year Fox has been one of the state’s most vocal amendment supporters. With his face often on television and his name in the newspaper, opponents of the amendment have made him a target.
“Now that we have won, the e-mails and the anger from the homosexual community has intensified even in the last two hours,” he said shortly after the amendment passed the House. “I’ve had e-mails with bodily threats toward me. We’ve had threats to burn our church building down in the last few days.”
Liberal Republicans were a hurdle to the amendment in Kansas and were also a hurdle in the Idaho vote. Even though Republicans hold 28 seats in the Idaho Senate, the amendment could muster only 21 votes.
Idaho State Sen. Gerry Sweet, a Republican and an amendment supporter, closed debate Feb. 2 with an impassioned plea, saying that a debate over the family is the “most important” issue the legislature could tackle.
“This debate centers on your willingness to let the people of Idaho decide on this issue,” he said.
Sweet noted that a federal lawsuit in California could work its way to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which includes Idaho.
“We are under attack,” he said. “The family is under attack. This issue is not about somebody’s chosen behavior…. We’re debating the stability of families and the stability of society.”
For information about the national debate over same-sex “marriage,” visit http://www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage