Thursday, January 30, 2014

Measures introduced to do away with Kansas’ ban on same-sex marriage

By SCOTT ROTHSCHILD, The Lawrence Journal-World

TOPEKA, KAN. — A House committee on Wednesday accepted a request to introduce measures that would repeal Kansas' ban on same-sex marriage.

Tom Witt, executive director of Equality Kansas, the state's leading gay rights group, asked for the proposals to be introduced before the wrap-up of a hearing on a bill that would provide legal protection to people who, because of religious opposition to gay marriage, would deny business and services to same-sex couples.

"Well, they want to have a conversation about marriage equality, so let's have a conversation about marriage equality," Witt said.

House Federal and State Affairs Chairman Steve Brunk, R-Wichita, said anyone who wants to introduce a bill in his committee is free to do so.

"It's never been my practice to preclude anybody because I may or may not like the particular bill personally," Brunk said.

Once the bills are drafted, Brunk will decide whether to hold a public hearing.

"I don't have a bill yet. All I have is a bill introduction, so I have no idea what it does or what it says. But as bills do come in, I do have to prioritize," he said.

Witt said one bill would repeal the state law passed in 1996 that bans same-sex marriage. He said the other measure would be a proposed constitutional amendment to repeal the 2005 amendment that doesn't recognize same-sex marriage. That passed with 70 percent of the vote.

Witt said he believes that eventually the U.S. Supreme Court will strike state laws and constitutional amendments against same-sex marriage.

Federal judges in Oklahoma and Utah have recently struck down bans and, like Kansas, fall under the jurisdiction of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.