Cole County, Mo., circuit court judge Richard Callahan ruled Friday that Missouri secretary of state Matt Blunt does not have to set an August election for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. The ruling will help Republicans, who hope to put the issue before voters during the November presidential election.
The ruling is expected to be appealed to the state supreme court. If it stands, the vote could have political implications not only for Democratic governor Bob Holden and Blunt, who's running against Holden for the governorship this year, but also for presumed Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry. Some political observers believe that a large turnout of conservative voters drawn to the polls by the same-sex marriage ban could provide Republicans the winning margin in the swing state of Missouri.
"If I were the Republican Party, I would really want this on the November ballot, because I think it would help them all the way up and down the ballot," said University of Missouri-Kansas City political science assistant professor Martha Kropf. "And if I were the Democrats, I'd be working day and night to make sure it got on the August ballot."
Attorney General Jay Nixon, a Democrat, had sued Blunt on Thursday, seeking to force him to begin the process of setting an August 3 election in response to a proclamation by Holden. But Callahan ruled that Blunt does not have to follow Holden's wishes because the secretary of state's office has not yet received the official version of the proposed amendment, which was passed last week by the legislature.
Blunt's office contends that the legislative signature requirement still applies and notes that a state law requires the office to first receive the bill or amendment before beginning the paperwork process to place an amendment on the ballot. Republican legislative leaders do not intend to sign the amendment until May 28, three days after the deadline for the secretary of state to notify local election authorities of items to appear on the August ballot.
The August election will coincide with Missouri's political party primaries, which have traditionally low turnouts and do not have Republicans and Democrats running against each other.