Wednesday, August 4, 2004

A state constitutional amendment to define marriage in Missouri as the union of a man and woman cruised to a lopsided victory last night.

With 51 percent of precincts reporting last night, the amendment had received 659,267 “yes” votes to 251,754 “no” votes — a margin of 72 percent to 28 percent.

“We’re very gratified, encouraged and thankful” for the vote, said Vicky Hartzler of the Coalition to Protect Marriage in Missouri. “Here in the heartland, we’ve sent a message to the rest of the nation that we value marriage, and we want it to be protected from legal challenges. It’s ‘we, the people,’ not ‘we, the courts.’”

The Family Research Council also hailed last night’s “win for traditional marriage in Missouri,” the nation’s first popular vote on homosexual “marriage” since the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court legalized the unions in that state in November.

“Citizens from all across the Show Me State have shown once again that when the people’s voice is not muted by unelected judges, they speak out soundly in support of marriage as it has always been traditionally defined,” said Tony Perkins, council president.

Pro-family groups scored two other victories yesterday, with activists in North Dakota and Ohio saying that they had collected enough signatures to put state constitutional amendments against homosexual “marriage” on their ballots.

The amendment had been leading in newspaper public-opinion polls, with from 56 percent to 62 percent support. But opponents of homosexual “marriage” were helped to an even bigger triumph by a heavy turnout, which was projected at more than 40 percent of registered voters — compared with 25 percent in the 2002 state primary.

Turnout was also boosted by a hotly contested Democratic gubernatorial battle between incumbent Gov. Bob Holden and state Auditor Claire McCaskill.

Opponents of the amendment, arguing that Missouri law already prohibits same-sex “marriage” in the state and disallows recognition of same-sex “marriages” from other states, recently had blitzed the state with ads asking voters not to support such a “mean-spirited” amendment.

“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,” he said.

The Missouri amendment would change the state constitution to say, “To be valid and recognized in this state, a marriage shall exist only between a man and a woman.”

Yesterday’s amendment vote was viewed by both sides as a bellwether for as many as 12 other states that will vote on marriage amendments in this political season.

The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest homosexual rights group, sent more than $100,000 to the Constitution Defense League in Missouri.

“Missouri is the first one,” said Seth Kilbourn, national field director of the Human Rights Campaign. “It’s really important that the gay and lesbian community and our allies wage as strong a campaign as we can to send a strong message to the other campaigns that are going on out there.”

Mr. Perkins of the Family Research Council said that “in the months ahead, marriage may be on the ballot in at least a dozen other states.”

“We believe today’s win for traditional marriage in Missouri will prove to be just one of many victories for marriage this fall.”

Meanwhile yesterday, the North Dakota Family Alliance said it had collected almost 52,000 signatures — more than double the 25,688 needed — to put a marriage amendment on that state’s November ballot.

“I never had any anxiety in regards to collecting the signatures,” said Christina Kindel, director of the Bismarck-based Family Alliance.

In Ohio, leaders of the Ohio Campaign to Protect Marriage turned in about 391,000 signatures yesterday, more than the 323,000 needed.

Activist judges are trying to redefine marriage, and an amendment “must be passed in Ohio in order to keep activists from destroying this cornerstone of society,” said Phil Burress, president of the Cincinnati-based Citizens for Community Values, which supports the amendment.

Homosexual “marriage” emerged as a national issue in November, when the Massachusetts justices, by a 4-3 vote, ruled that their state constitution gave homosexuals the right to “marry.”

Homosexual couples began “marrying” in that state on May 17, and many observers think it is inevitable that same-sex “marriage” will expand because of the custom that marriages in one state are recognized in all others.

Already, a lesbian couple from Florida who “married” in Massachusetts in July has filed a federal lawsuit seeking recognition of their union by the federal government and by Florida.

The issue is divisive among Americans: Although a minority approve of homosexual “marriage” as an overdue expansion of civil rights, more Americans see it as a radical, and even profane, redefinition of a sacred institution.

Missouri’s amendment, as in Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Utah, was first passed by lawmakers. Louisiana’s vote is next, on Sept. 18, and the rest are on Nov. 2.

Amendment supporters in Montana, Arkansas and Oregon have succeeded in their petition drives to get marriage amendments on the November ballots. Supporters in Michigan are awaiting verification of signatures.

Four states — Alaska, Hawaii, Nebraska and Nevada — already have amended their state constitutions, including through state referendums, to disallow any other marriages but those between one man and one woman.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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