Sunday, April 3, 2005

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Marriage is the big topic in Kansas this weekend. Yard signs are up, radio ads are running and a “Mayday for Marriage” rally is set for today.

Following the lead of more than a dozen other states, Kansas scheduled a vote Tuesday on whether to amend the state constitution to ban same-sex couples from “marrying.” One of the toughest in the nation, Kansas’ proposed ban also would prevent homosexuals from receiving any of the “rights and incidents” of marriage.

A coalition of Christian clergy from across the state backs the ban, with help from out-of-state supporters. They have raised more than $125,000 and are blanketing communities with symbols of a veiled bride and tuxedo-wearing groom.

Whenever they can, they repeat the slogan “Protect Marriage.” Their rally today is expected to draw folks to Kansas City from across the state.

“We don’t want same-sex unions to be considered equal to marriage,” said Mike Farmer, Kansas Catholic Conference executive director. “Where does it end? Any two people, any three people, any four people? People who believe in traditional marriage want to do everything they can to protect it.”

Opponents say the measure is discriminatory and does not do anything to protect marriage.

“We don’t see anything about prohibiting adultery. This message about protecting marriage just rings hollow,” said Bruce Ney, chairman of Kansans for Fairness, a coalition opposing the amendment. “This message is about hate.”

The opposition is holding its own rally today and lined up nearly 100 clergy who say the measure violates Christian teachings. They’ve raised only about $35,000 and are prepared for a loss.

“We’ll lose. But it’s not right,” said the Rev. Robert Meneilly, a retired Presbyterian minister who opposes the amendment. “If we believe that we are made in God’s likeness, we all need to be respected and treated the same.”

Kansas would become the 18th state to ban same-sex “marriage” through state constitutional amendment. Thirteen states passed similar amendments last year, and conservative Christians have cited the efforts as key in shaping public policy.

Indeed, conservatives have criticized President Bush for not pushing hard enough to pass an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. His quest for the amendment failed last year in Congress.

Kansans aren’t the only ones active in the Kansas vote. The Knights of Columbus of New Haven, Conn., donated $100,000. The Washington-based group Concerned Women for America, which aims to promote biblical teachings in public policy, as well as the Coalition of African-American Pastors from Tennessee, are helping lead today’s rally.

Movement leaders say they have to pursue constitutional amendments to prevent a liberal judiciary from legalizing homosexual unions.

“If a culture cannot define and protect basic relationships such as marriage, then that culture will, I believe, find itself drifting further into chaos and confusion,” said Pastor J.K. Warrick of the College Church of the Nazarene in Olathe, Kansas.

As the vote nears, the debate is intensifying. Once-private sentiments surface between neighbors, church members, doctors and patients and parents on playgrounds.

“God loves all of us, and we are all sinners. We have no right to say this particular sin has to be targeted,” said Linda Stoker, 54, a married mother from Johnson County who plans to vote against the amendment.

Not so, said Yvonne DiFalco, another Johnson County married mother who planted a pro-amendment sign in her yard.

“As a decent society, we want people to know they are loved,” Mrs. DiFalco said. “But we will not waltz them into a life of hell.”

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