A political fight over the timing of a vote on a gay marriage ban in Missouri reached the state supreme court as skeptical judges questioned whether there was any practical or legal reason preventing an August election, which is favored by Democrats.
Frequently on the defensive during arguments Tuesday, an attorney for Missouri's Republican secretary of state contended that state election law renders the August vote impossible--leaving the likely alternative of a November vote, which is favored by Republicans. The seven-member supreme court gave no indication of when it would rule.
Many political observers believe that a November general election vote would hurt Democrats because the socially conservative backers of the gay marriage ban would be likely to vote for Republicans, including President Bush. A vote during the August party primaries would defuse any political advantage because Democrats and Republicans are not pitted against each other in these races.
Missouri already has a law against gay marriage. But legislators last month passed a proposed one-sentence addition to the state constitution: "That to be valid and recognized in this state, a marriage shall exist only between a man and a woman."
The constitution stipulates that proposed amendments be placed on the November ballot unless the governor calls for an earlier special election. That's precisely what Democratic governor Bob Holden did. But Missouri secretary of state Matt Blunt, who is running against Holden, contends he cannot follow the governor's wishes because Republican legislative leaders did not send him the officially passed version of the proposed amendment until after the May 25 deadline, imposed to provide 10 weeks' notice of ballot items to local election officials.