Gay marriage targeted in state Senate

Wednesday, February 25, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 3:52 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 9, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri lawmakers entered the national fray on gay marriage Tuesday, debating a proposed amendment to the Missouri Constitution defining marriage as “only between a man and a woman.”

The state Senate debate came on the same day that President Bush urged Congress to pass a similar amendment to the U.S. Constitution and send it to the states.

If approved by the Missouri House and Senate, the proposed amendment to the state constitution would go on November’s general election ballot.

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.

But legislators in Missouri and other states with similar laws are considering enshrining the policies in their constitutions in response to a recent Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decision declaring it unconstitutional there to prohibit gay marriages.

They also cite the actions of city officials in San Francisco who have issued thousands of gay marriage licenses despite a California law defining marriage as a heterosexual institution.

Placing a gay marriage ban in the Missouri Constitution would ensure “activist judges” don’t invalidate the will of the people and Legislature to limit marriage to one man and one woman, said Sen. Sarah Steelman, R-Rolla, who sponsored the proposal.

Her legislation would add one sentence to the state constitution: “That to be valid and recognized in this state, a marriage shall exist only between a man and a woman.”

Legislators passed the current law against gay marriage in 200l.

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