Mo. becomes 6th state to send marriage amendment to voters

by Allen Palmeri, posted Monday, May 17, 2004 (15 years ago)

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (BP)--An amendment to the Missouri constitution to protect traditional marriage was approved four minutes before the close of the House of Representatives May 14 on the final day of the 2004 General Assembly. The vote was 124-25.

The issue now goes to the voters, with Missouri joining five other states -- Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Utah -- in letting voters decide the issue.

Gov. Bob Holden will have a say in whether the question goes on Missouri’s August primary or Nov. 2 general election ballot. A simple majority vote of Missourians will decide whether it becomes law.

Its passage, according to the man who is in line to become Speaker of the House, is already assured.

“I’m all over the state traveling, and I talk to people, both Republican and Democrat,” said House Speaker Pro Tem Rod Jetton, R.-Marble Hill and a member of New Salem Baptist Church in Marble Hill. “People really do believe, as a whole, that marriage between a man and a woman is the core of our society. They feel like the homosexuals are forcing this lifestyle on them, so I think that we will have a large number, 65 percent-plus, vote for this.”

Jetton was one of nearly 40 bipartisan co-sponsors of the amendment.

Sen. Sarah Steelman, R.-Rolla, wrote the language that eventually prevailed in a long internal debate between the House and the Senate. Steelman defended the relevance of the issue and time spent weighing the precise wording before it crystallized at 5:56 p.m. as the last measure passed in the 2004 legislative session.

“Some people ask, ‘Why is this important? Aren’t there more important things that we ought to be dealing with up here?’” Steelman said. “The answer to that is, ‘This is extraordinarily important because the family unit has supported our society. It has been around for thousands of years, not hundreds of years, and it is absolutely fundamental to the raising of children in our society.”

The language that Missouri voters will vote on states, “That to be valid and recognized in this state, a marriage shall exist only between a man and a woman.”

Rep. Jason Crowell, R.-Cape Girardeau and the House majority floor leader, wrote the House marriage amendment that had been awaiting final approval in the Senate. He brought Steelman’s resolution to the House floor when it became obvious that a filibuster by Sen. Ken Jacob, D.-Columbia, would prevent Crowell’s resolution from being heard in the Senate.

Rep. Kevin Engler, R.-Farmington, defended Steelman’s resolution, noting, “It’s simpler.”

“In the end, this issue deserves a vote by Missourians,” Crowell said. “Is this language perfect and excellent? I don’t know. I do know that the language gets the issue to Missourians.”

The Coalition to Protect Marriage in Missouri exists to make sure that the marriage amendment prevails. The coalition is developing a strategy that involves church coordinators and county coordinators.


For more information about the national debate over same-sex “marriage,” visit www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage.

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