JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri voters were headed toward easy passage of an amendment Tuesday that would add a ban on gay marriage to the Missouri Constitution.
Amendment 2 had garnered 69.9 percent of the vote, with 91 percent of precincts reporting, according to unofficial results.
Missouri was the first state to consider placing the restriction in its constitution since Massachusetts’ high court ruled last year that gay couples have the legal right to marry in that state.
Missouri, like many states, already has a state law defining marriage as only between a man and a woman. The law specifically does not recognize same-sex marriages, even if they are performed in a state where they are legal.
Tuesday’s vote was much closer in Boone County, where 53.8 percent of the voters supported the amendment with 100 percent of the precincts reporting.
The desire for equal access is why Ed Orr, who voted at Fairview Elementary School, said amending the constitution is a bad idea.
“If all the rights and benefits apply, all the duties and obligations are also going to have to apply,” he said. “Amending the Constitution to say only a man and women can get married is not the way to do it. I think the legislature should do it. You wonder if people are against gays getting married, or if people are against amending the Constitution.”
Jean Hall was one of many voters who considered it the most important issue on Tuesday’s ballot.
“The second amendment is very, very important,” Hall said. “I’m adamantly opposed to it. We don’t need any amendments that restrict anybody’s liberties. That’s the one I feel strongest about in this particular election.”
But amendment supporters said they fear a court could toss aside the state law and think the state policy would be on firmer legal ground if it is ensconced in the Missouri 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 former Republican lawmaker and spokeswoman for the Coalition to Protect Marriage in Missouri.
Other Columbia voters didn’t cast their vote based on issues of privilege but questioned who should have the authority to define marriage.
“That particular amendment concerns me because while I am not opposed to gay individuals as such; I don’t think it’s right for them to be able to define marriage for all the rest of us,” said Paula Hertwig-Hopkins, Columbia assistant city manager.
Opponents said the amendment was unnecessary and discriminatory but acknowledged they had an uphill fight.
Doug Gray, campaign manager for the Constitution Defense League, said he was encouraged at the connections the group made with Missourians who opposed the amendment and would work with them on issues important to the gay community, such as protection from employment discrimination.
He also said he planned to share campaign strategies with groups fighting similar amendments elsewhere.
“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,” he said. “... Ultimately we’re right and they’re simply wrong.”
— Missourian reporter Caleb Michael Smith contributed to this report.