WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Republican Gov. Sam Brownback vowed Monday to defend Kansas' ban on same-sex marriage, while Democratic challenger Paul Davis said during a debate Monday that there's nothing either of them can do at this point because the matter is in the hands of the courts.
The issue came up during a televised debate at KWCH studios in Wichita in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court decision earlier this month that cleared the way for gay marriages in several states. The American Civil Liberties Union is seeking a court order that would allow gay marriages in Kansas, and a federal judge has set a hearing for Friday.
Kansas has a voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage in its constitution. Davis was a lawmaker when the Legislature debated it, and he said Monday that he did not support the constitutional amendment because he believed it would have an adverse effect on the welcoming image the state has had for decades. But he added that the people of Kansas decided by a significant majority to put the prohibition in the constitution, and he respects that decision.
"The fact of the matter is that at this particular time there is nothing I can do, there is nothing Gov. Brownback can do to impact this issue," Davis said. "It is in the court system."
Brownback noted that 70 percent of Kansans voted for the amendment.
"There is something that Rep. Davis and I can do on this and that is as governor defend our constitution, and he is not even saying whether he would defend our constitution where our people have voted on this issue," Brownback said.
Their final debate is Tuesday before the Kansas Association of Broadcasters meeting. The back-to-back appearances come amid recent independent polling that shows the race has tightened as outside money from groups has flooded into the state.
Davis is wooing moderate Republicans and unaffiliated voters who are worried about tax cuts enacted at Brownback's urging. The cuts dropped the state's top personal income tax rate by 26 percent and exempted the owners of 191,000 businesses from income taxes altogether.
"The governor's experiment is not working and it is not going to work," Davis said.
But the governor promised to keep pushing what he calls "a growth agenda and not a tax agenda."
Brownback contends the tax cuts are boosting the economy, but the Legislature's nonpartisan research staff predicts a $260 million budget shortfall by July 2016.
Education cuts have been a focus throughout the campaign and remained so in the latest encounter.
The Kansas Supreme Court has found the state's education spending unconstitutional and ordered the state to better fund its schools. Brownback has steadfastly claimed he has increased education spending, while Davis contends the incumbent is misleading voters by counting outside factors such as pensions in his numbers.
Davis said his first priority if elected governor is to restore education funding.