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71% of Missouri voters endorse marriage ban

71% of Missouri voters endorse marriage ban

Missouri voters on Tuesday solidly endorsed a state constitutional amendment banning marriage for gay and lesbian couples, a decision that was closely watched by national groups on both sides of the battle. With all precincts reporting, the measure amending the state constitution garnered about 71% of the vote, according to unofficial results. It was the first such vote regarding same-sex marriage since the historic ruling in Massachusetts last year that legalized same-sex weddings there. Although the ban was widely expected to pass in conservative Missouri, experts said the campaign served as a key barometer for which strategies work, as at least nine other states--and perhaps as many as 12--are voting on similar proposed amendments this year. Missouri and 37 other states already have laws defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman. But amendment supporters fear that courts could toss aside the state law, and they believe the state would be on firmer legal ground if an outright ban is part of the constitution. "I'm very gratified and encouraged and thankful that the people of this state understand our current policy's a wise public policy and they want to see it protected from a legal challenge," said Vicky Hartzler, a spokeswoman for the Coalition to Protect Marriage in Missouri. Opponents said the amendment was unnecessary and discriminatory but knew they faced an uphill battle in Missouri. "We're already reaching out to these other states, sharing with them what we learned, what worked, what didn't work, and we'll move on," said Doug Gray, campaign manager for the Constitution Defense League. "Ultimately we're right and they're simply wrong." Supporters and opponents of the amendment have used grassroots campaigns--knocking on doors and making phone calls--to tell people about the issue. The group fighting the amendment, the Constitution Defense League, raised more than $360,000, largely from national gay rights groups, and ran a television ad in the final days before the vote. The group favoring the amendment, the Coalition to Protect Marriage in Missouri, spread the word through churches and community events, raising just a few thousand dollars but saying public sentiment in Missouri was on their side. Louisiana residents are to vote on a marriage amendment September 18. Then Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Montana, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Utah are to vote on the issue on November 2. Initiatives are pending in Michigan, North Dakota, and Ohio. Four states--Alaska, Hawaii, Nebraska, and Nevada--already have similar amendments in their constitutions.

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