Topeka, Kansas--With 70 percent of the vote, Kansans made their state the 18th to pass a constitutional amendment barring recognition of same-sex marriages on April 5.
The amendment defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman, but also limits any of the �rights and incidents� of marriage to those couples.
This may lead to challenges, as the phrase �rights and incidents� can be interpreted broadly.
In Ohio similar wording has been used by defense attorneys to get charges dropped in domestic violence cases where the defendant and alleged victim are not legally married.
�Does this impact living wills?� asked Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. �Powers of attorney? Custody agreements? The enforcement of custody agreements?�
Foreman pointed out that proponents of the measure outspent opponents by a margin of three-to-one.
Opponents had hoped to tie the amendment in people�s minds to Fred Phelps, the vitriolic pastor of Westboro Baptist Church who made his name by loudly picketing the funerals of Matthew Shepard and President Bill Clinton�s mother, as well as starting web sites like www.godhatesfags.com and www.godhatesamerica.com.
Last month, Topeka voters approved a gay equal rights ordinance while rejecting Phelps� granddaughter�s bid for city council. Fifty-three percent of voters said not to repeal the ordinance passed by council, while Jael Phelps came in dead last. She had run against a lesbian incumbent and a more moderate challenger, a popular businessman.
Kansas is the first state this year to pass an amendment barring recognition of same-sex marriages.
Thirteen states passed amendments in 2004. Of those, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana and Oregon simply defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman, while the measures in Louisiana, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma and Utah went further, banning civil unions or similar constructs or restricting the benefits of marriage to opposite-sex marriages.
Eleven of those amendments passed during the November general election.
The first two states to pass such amendments were Alaska and Hawaii in 1998, following court decisions in both states that denying marriage to same-sex couples violated state constitutional equal rights protections.
Hawaii�s amendment stated only that the legislature could define marriage as they saw fit. Some organizations do not consider this a full marriage ban amendment, leaving their count at 17 states, including Kansas.
Nebraska passed an amendment in 2000, followed in 2002 by Nevada.
As many as 14 more states are expected to face amendments by 2008, according to the NGLTF. Alabama, South Dakota and Tennessee have already put theirs on next year�s ballots.
�Our nation is continuing to witness something that has not happened since our constitution was first ratified in 1791--essentially a national referendum inviting the public to vote to deprive a small minority of Americans of rights that the majority takes for granted and sees as fundamental,� Foreman said.
�Not only are these amendment votes unjust and immoral, so is the silence and inaction of so many people who see themselves as enlightened, unprejudiced, and supporters of equal rights for all people,� he continued. �As the cascade of lies pours forth from the America's anti-gay industry, we need, we expect, and morality demands that people of faith and good will all across the nation speak out in the same way and with the same vehemence as they would if it was another minority under attack.�
�If they do not,� he concluded, �they will look back 20 or 30 years from now with deserved shame.�
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