By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer
The national debate over gay marriage has surfaced as an issue in Kentucky U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning's re-election campaign and through legislation filed Monday in the state General Assembly to define marriage as between a man and a woman.
Bunning, a Southgate Republican seeking a second term in November, supports a constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage.
Dr. Daniel Mongiardo of Hazard, a Democrat state senator seeking Bunning's Senate seat, said he was raised believing marriage is between a man and a woman but said he could back legally-recognized civil unions.
Marc Wilson, a Frankfort lobbyist and frequent political adviser to Kentucky GOP candidates, said Kentucky voters would be more likely to back the gay marriage ban and oppose civil unions.
"Sen. Bunning's position lines up better with the views of Kentucky's families," Wilson said Monday. "The (civil union) issue is not going to resonate with the voters of Kentucky."
In a statement, Bunning said "As a lead co-sponsor in the U.S. Senate for a Federal Marriage Amendment to the Constitution, I applaud ... President Bush. Throughout the history of civilization marriage has been defined as a union between one man and one woman.
"With the ongoing legal questions in states like Massachusetts and cities like San Francisco where they permit marriage between people of the same sex," Bunning said, "we must not let the will of a few states and cities backed by activist judges push same sex marriage on Kentuckians." Last week, President Bush announced his support for the amendment.
Mongiardosaid last week he could back civil unions where same sex couples are legally recognized, mainly for the purpose of collecting benefits afforded to married couples.
"I'm willing to entertain the idea of arrangements allowing more equal benefits, but like I said, to me marriage is between a man and a woman," he said in a statement.
The topic came up last week when Mongairdo was asked about the amendment during an interview on WFPL 89.3, Louisville's National Public Radio news station.
"I have to go back to my personal beliefs and my religious beliefs and I believe a marriage is between a man and a woman," Mongairdo said on the station's State of Affairs program. "That's my personal belief, not to say that you can not have a civil union. You can go down to (an) attorney and two entities can come together and agree on whatever they want to agree on."
In his statement Mongiardo said while the issue is worthy of debate, Bush, Bunning and the GOP are using gay marriage to appeal to the Republicans' base of religious and social conservatives.
"This is certainly an important issue, but it's disappointing that right around election time Republicans always come up with something to divide us," he said. "The reality is that this issue is being used to distract from us from the skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs, the over 40 million people without health insurance, the muddled situation in Iraq and the tens of thousands of jobs being lost overseas.
"Those are the issues I've been talking about and those are the issues I'm going to continue to talk about," Mongiardo said.
Opposition to gay marriages emerged Monday in Frankfort when Senate President Pro Tem Dick Roeding of Northern Kentucky co-sponsored legislation that would put the issue to the voters in the form of a constitutional amendment.
Roeding said the bill would ensure that marriage is defined in the Kentucky Constitution as between a man and a woman. Even though Kentucky law already prohibits same sex marriages, a similar law was overruled by judges in Massachusetts, he said.
"Despite Massachusetts statute, Massachusetts will begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in May," Roeding, R-Lakeside Park, said Monday. "Homosexual marriages are against the law in California, yet San Francisco has already approved thousands of these unions.
"A constitutional amendment is the only way we can ensure that these kinds of events will not happen here," Roeding said.
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