The Missouri house on Thursday passed a proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, a move supporters said would guard against "activist judges" but which opponents criticized as discriminatory.
On a 124-19 announced vote, the house sent its version of the proposed amendment of the Missouri constitution to the senate. The senate has passed a simpler version, with the same intent, and that bill is pending in the house. If the house and senate eventually agree on the same language, the proposed amendment would go on the November ballot unless Gov. Bob Holden designates a special election for the matter.
Missouri already has a state law that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman. But supporters say that language must be placed in the state constitution so that a judge could not overturn the state law. They often point to a court decision in Massachusetts, which declared it unconstitutional to prohibit gay couples from marrying in that state.
Opponents say the state law will suffice and that putting the restriction in the constitution is needless and demeaning. The senate proposal would amend the Missouri constitution to state: "That to be valid and recognized in this state, a marriage shall exist only between a man and a woman." The house proposal also says marriage shall only be between a man and a woman, but it further says that the state won't recognize anything "treated as a marriage" in other states or countries other than one between a man and a woman.