Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Marriage amendment headed for Nov. ballot

By Bruce Schreiner
The Associated Press

FRANKFORT - The Kentucky Senate gave final approval Tuesday to a proposed constitutional amendment that would prohibit same-sex marriages and deny legal recognition of civil unions.

The measure was sent to the November ballot, though at least one critic warned that the proposal might draw a legal challenge.

The Senate passed the measure 33-5. It culminated weeks of intense debate and political maneuvering that gripped the House, where the measure had stalled until winning passage in a dramatic vote Monday night.

Sen. Ernesto Scorsone, Kentucky's only openly gay legislator, said lawmakers had bowed to a "mob mentality." Large crowds converged on the Capitol in recent weeks to push for the marriage amendment.

Kentucky already has a law that prohibits same-sex marriages.

Supporters of the proposed amendment insist that writing the prohibition into the state Constitution is the only way to cement it.

"The reality is that there is no case in the legal pipeline right now in Kentucky that could possibly upset that statute," said Scorsone, D-Lexington. "Everybody knows it here. There is no crisis or emergency, but yet we're rushing to change the Constitution."

The Senate vote was an anticlimactic finale to a drama that had turned the Capitol into a cultural battleground. The Senate vote came on the final day of the 2004 General Assembly's regular session.

The measure would define marriage strictly as a union between a man and a woman.

Rep. J.R. Gray, D-Benton, said Tuesday he was relieved the marriage amendment had passed the House after weeks of political maneuvering. "I'm glad it's behind us," Gray said. "It's what Kentuckians wanted, and we've been able to ... deliver it to them."

Even Gray - an ardent supporter of the proposed amendment - predicted that the next fight over the measure might be waged in court.

"It's an issue of such magnitude that I think there's some attorneys out there that would not be able to turn down an opportunity to contest it," Gray said.

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