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Marriage amendment passes easily in Kansas, 70-30 percent; pro-amendment church survives pre-election arson attempt

TOPEKA, Kan. (BP)–Demonstrating that the national movement to ban same-sex “marriage” shows no signs of slowing, Kansas voters April 5 passed a state constitutional marriage amendment by an overwhelming margin of 70-30 percent.

The amendment, which bans both “gay marriage” and Vermont-style civil unions, passed in all but one county.

“It’s a great day in Kansas,” Wichita pastor Terry Fox, an amendment supporter, told Baptist Press. “This has been a long, hard fight.”

All total, 18 states now have adopted marriage amendments, and others are almost certain to join that list in the next two years. Incredibly, the 18 amendments have passed with an average of 70.3 percent of the vote. Only two of them — Michigan (59) and Oregon (57) — received less than 60 percent support. A marriage amendment has never failed at the ballot.

The Kansas vote comes five months after marriage amendments went 11-for-11 during November’s election. Kansas would have been the 12th state to vote on an amendment Nov. 2 if not for the state legislature last May failing to send one to voters. Frustrated, Fox and other conservative leaders set out on a campaign to defeat politicians who had voted against it. In the end, their side won. With new faces in the legislature, the Kansas House and Senate passed the amendment earlier this year, placing it on the April ballot.

The 70-30 percent margin of victory, Fox said, should have national implications. A March poll had it winning with only 54 percent of the vote. Another poll had it winning at 62 percent.

“It shows that in the heartland there’s passion for a federal amendment now,” said Fox, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Wichita. “This wasn’t on the coattails of something else, like electing a president.”

Instead, the amendment was the lead item statewide. The rest of the ballot featured local races such as those for city council.

The amendment increased turnout significantly, with approximately 592,000 people voting on the amendment itself. By comparison, in April 1999 a constitutional amendment concerning property taxes attracted only 269,000 total votes.

“People who came to vote came for this very purpose,” Fox said.

The vote capped a year-long pro-amendment campaign by Fox. During recent months he spoke at dozens of churches and conducted numerous media interviews. Consequently, his office received threats via e-mail and regular mail.

The Sunday before the election, someone even tried to set the church on fire. Church officials arrived Sunday morning to find the exterior stairs, walls and a few trees burned. Gasoline had been doused on all of them. The church had received e-mails threatening such action.

“It was a pretty extensive area burned, and it was obvious they were trying to burn the church building down,” Fox said.

He is certain that someone who opposed the amendment was behind the crime.

“I don’t think there’s any questioning that,” he said. “… Here it was Sunday morning, and the vote was Tuesday. Of course, we’ve had bodily threats by e-mail.”

The local newspaper, The Wichita Eagle, editorialized heavily against the amendment.

“There were so many obstructionists in the way,” Fox said.

But the amendment brought together Protestant churches of all denominations, Fox said. Some 1,200 churches came together to support the amendment, and they plan on working in the future on other cultural issues, he said.

On the flip side, 125 religious leaders signed a document opposing the amendment. Among them was Tarris Rosell, associate professor of pastoral care at Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Kan. The seminary is affiliated with both the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and the American Baptist Churches U.S.A.

“[The amendment] divided the liberal churches versus the conservative churches,” Fox said. “… It has really created some wonderful dialogue on the difference between a liberal church and a conservative church.”

The amendment also highlighted a divide between the academic community and the rest of the country. While it received 70 percent of the vote statewide, it lost in Douglas County — home to the University of Kansas. There it received only 37 percent of the vote.

Conservatives and traditionalists say the amendments are needed to prevent a state court from legalizing same-sex “marriage.” Massachusetts’ high court, not restrained by an amendment, did just that. The amendments, though, have one weakness — they can be overturned in federal court.

Fox says an amendment to the U.S. Constitution is the only permanent solution.

“We need it because we don’t trust the federal courts,” he said. “I’m absolutely convinced that if we don’t get a federal ban, then all of our hard work here will be done away with from a federal judge.”

Matt Daniels, president of the Alliance for Marriage, also said an amendment to the U.S. Constitution is still needed. AFM authored the amendment that was debated in Congress last year.

“Tuesday’s vote in Kansas is another step down a historic road of taking the future of marriage under our laws to the American people. It is a prelude to the real battle,” Daniels said in a statement.

The movement to ban same-sex “marriage” stretches back to the 1990s when the Hawaii Supreme Court appeared to be on the verge of legalizing same-sex “marriage.” Voters subsequently passed an amendment giving the legislature the authority to ban “gay marriage,” which it did. Of the 18 states with marriage amendments, Hawaii’s is the only one that does not explicitly ban same-sex “marriage” within the text itself.
For more information about the national debate over same-sex “marriage,” visit http://www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage

    About the Author

  • Michael Foust