Putting its mark on an issue that has garnered national attention, the Missouri senate has approved a measure to amend the Missouri constitution to ban same-sex marriage. The senate's 26-6 vote Monday in favor of the proposed constitutional amendment sent the measure to the house, which has yet to debate its own version. If both chambers pass the same proposal, the question would go on the
ballot in November.
Supporters said that although a state law already specifies that marriage is between a man and a woman, the definition should be clarified in the state constitution so that courts do not recognize gay marriage in Missouri anyway. The proponents cite a recent Massachusetts supreme judicial court decision declaring it unconstitutional in that state to deny gay couples equal marriage rights. "This is fundamentally a defensive action," said senate president pro tem Peter Kinder (R-Cape Girardeau). "This is not something where the majority who will vote for this bill began this fight. We are responding to activist judges on the other side who started this." Opponents said the measure is discriminatory and unnecessary and took time from legislative debate on important issues such as budgets and schools. "It's a discrimination based on gender that is not necessary and takes this discussion to a new low in Missouri," said Sen. Joan Bray (D-St. Louis).
Sen. Sarah Steelman (R-Rolla) sponsored the resolution, which would add one sentence to the Missouri constitution: "That to be valid and recognized in this state, a marriage shall exist only between a man and a woman." Missouri law already declares it state policy "to recognize marriage only between a man and a woman" and specifically to not recognize same-sex marriages, even if performed in a state where they are legal.