Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Playing Politics with Marriage

Scott Rothchild reported in the Novemeber 29 Lawrence Journal World

Timing may be everything in a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

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, senior pastor 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, a Democrat from Greensburg.

McKinney, who supports a same-sex marriage ban, said, "If it's not political, let's put it on the ballot in April."

The amendment is just the start. Conservatives plan to push a "covenant marriage" bill, which would allow couples to marry under rules that would make divorce more difficult. The bill is modeled on Lousiana even though only 1-2% of couples exercise the option. And, of course, there is nothing in present law which prevents pastors or churches from using more exacting criteria before agreeing to marry a couple.

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