Thursday, April 15, 2004

Senate gives final passage to marriage amendment

By Bruce Schreiner
The Associated Press

FRANKFORT - The Kentucky Senate Tuesday gave its final consent for a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriages. Now the voters will decide the issue.

The Senate passed the measure 33-5, sending it to the November ballot. The proposal also would deny legal recognition of civil unions.

At least one critic warned that the proposal might face a legal challenge.

The Senate vote 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 mobilized by the Family Foundation, a Lexington-based conservative group, had converged on the Capitol in recent weeks to push for the marriage amendment.

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

Supporters insist that writing the prohibition into the Constitution is the only way to safeguard it against any court challenge. Scorsone scoffed at those fears.

"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."

"We're trying to act pro-active rather than reactive," said Sen. Vernie McGaha, R-Russell Springs. "There are trends around the nation and we'd like to get in front of the trend before it comes to Kentucky."

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