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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
April 1, 2005

Kansas to vote Tuesday on marriage ban amendment

Topeka, Kan.--Out-of-state money and warring religious groups mark the path to a vote on Kansas� proposed anti-marriage constitutional amendment next Tuesday, April 5.

The measure, similar to those already passed in 17 states, would bar state recognition of same-sex marriages and civil unions.

Fifty clergy members from various religions and denominations released a joint statement vilifying the proposed amendment on March 25.

The statement was released shortly after three congregations in Lawrence, Kansas also rejected the amendment.

�It�s very important for those voting to know that there�s a really strong voice among people of faith for an affirmative view of same-sex marriage and against a restrictive constitutional amendment,� Harold Washington, clerk of one of the groups, told the Lawrence Journal World.

On the financial side of the equation, only six of the groups fighting on both sides of the issue had filed paperwork by the March 21 deadline.

�There�s no requirement to list the phone number in case someone wants to reach one of these entities,� Carol Williams of the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission told WIBW-TV. �So we�re sitting here with these few reports. Maybe there should be three times as many, maybe this is all we�ll have. We just don�t know.�

�But my guess is there are people out there who have not complied by filing the necessary documents.�

The existing reports showed the money lopsided in favor of the amendment�s backers.

The Knights of Columbus, a Catholic men�s group, donated $100,000 to support the amendment, two-thirds of the amount raised by proponents. As of the filing date, Focus on the Family Action of Colorado Springs had spent over $20,000 promoting the measure, about half of it on radio ads.

Opponents of the amendment, Citizens for Fairness, the Flint Hills Human Rights Project and Kansans for Fairness have only raised around $37,000.

Besides Focus on the Family, backers filing reports include DOMA, Inc. and One Voice of Kansas.

However, as of March 21, amendment backers had only spent $40,000, and opponents only $5,800, indicating that the final stretch was going to be costly and, most likely, quite ugly.

�We certainly want to see if a message of fairness, equality and justice will resonate in a red state like Kansas,� said People for the American Way�s Rev. Steven Baines, noting that George W. Bush carried Kansas last November with 62 percent of the vote.

One tactic opponents of the amendment were using was tying it to Fred Phelps, the vitriolic, rabidly homophobic leader of Westboro Baptist Church who made his name picketing the funerals of gay men like Matthew Shepard and other targets like President Bill Clinton�s mother.

Phelps and other local church leaders tried to get Topeka voters to pass a city charter amendment last month barring the city from granting civil rights protections to gay men and lesbians.

The measure was defeated March 1 with 53 percent of voters rejecting the measure, which Phelps and other religious right leaders had strongly supported.

 

 

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