JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (BP)–Missouri voters have overwhelmingly approved a state constitutional amendment that defines marriage as being solely between a man and a woman and bans same-sex “marriage.”
Voters in the state’s primary election Aug. 3 gave the marriage amendment one of the widest victory margins in Missouri history, with 71 percent voting “yes” to the amendment defending traditional marriage while repudiating homosexual “marriage.” Only one non-controversial ballot issue in 1998 earned a wider victory margin in recent history.
With a record 43 percent of Missouri voters going to the polls, 1,049,571 voted for the amendment; 432,495 against it.
The outcome makes Missouri the first — of what could be 10 or more states this year — to embrace an amendment to its state constitution that defines marriage as solely between a man and a woman.
The 600,000-member Missouri Baptist Convention was at the forefront of the effort to educate Baptists and other voters about the marriage amendment. The convention’s efforts included prayer groups throughout the state, e-mail campaigns, informational material for churches and thousands of Missouri Baptists urging other church members, relatives and neighbors to vote.
“I believe Missouri Baptists played a strong role in the marriage amendment victory,” said David Clippard, MBC executive director. “I think Missouri Baptists got informed and began speaking to friends, neighbors and church members. I have received an incredible amount of feedback from pastors and laymen who have said it is time for Baptists to come together. And they did.”
Missouri Baptists played a key role earlier this year in urging the General Assembly to place the measure on the ballot. Convention leaders lobbied legislators; 10,000 church members signed a petition urging the legislature to put the proposed amendment on the ballot this year; and the convention’s newspaper, The Pathway, published a number of pro-amendment and voter registration editorials.
Kerry Messer, a lobbyist for the MBC’s Christian Life Commission, said the massive vote for traditional marriage sends a message to activist judges and candidates in the fall elections.
“The church universal in Missouri has come to a point where it has said that we’re not going to be put in a bottle any more,” Messer said. “We know what our role is. We’re going to speak up for righteousness, and we have done so in this election.”
Vicky Hartzler, a former Missouri legislator, served as the spokeswoman for the group backing the marriage amendment, the Coalition to Protect Marriage in Missouri.
“I think the power of prayer has been evidenced, and Missouri values have spoken,” Hartzler said. “Here in the heartland, we have a heart for the family and understand the wisdom of keeping a state policy for marriage which is between a man and a woman.”
Passage of the amendment came despite homosexual supporters getting endorsements from most of the state’s major newspapers and money from well-financed national homosexual rights groups who spent more than $100,000 to defeat the amendment, most of it in a last-minute advertising blitz.
“The large presence of these groups shows that they understand what is at stake,” said Tony Perkins, executive director of the Family Research Council.
Hartzler said the “well-organized, nationally funded political machine” in opposition to traditional marriage “pulled out all the stops to defeat marriage in Missouri.”
“I am thankful that the people of Missouri saw through their distorted advertising campaigns and recognized the value of protecting traditional marriage from a possible legal challenge,” she added.
The marriage debate intensified in Missouri last year after a landmark court decision in Massachusetts cleared the way for same-sex “weddings” in that state. The Massachusetts action prompted initiatives in several states to push for constitutional amendments to ban homosexual “marriage.”
With the Aug. 3 vote, Missouri joins Nevada, Alaska and Nebraska with state constitutions prohibiting homosexual “marriages.”
Missouri was the first state this year to vote on the issue. Louisiana voters will decide the fate of a marriage amendment on Sept. 18.
Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Montana, Oklahoma, Oregon and Utah will vote on the issue on Nov. 2.
Hartzler said the large victory margin for the amendment was the result of Missouri voters realizing how vulnerable state law is to liberal judges.
“Even though we have a state law defining marriage, it was just a matter of time before a small, vocal minority would challenge our state law in court,” Hartzler said. “There are many liberal courts in Missouri which would have been favorable to such a decision.”
Rodney Albert, chairman of the MBC’s Christian Life Commission and pastor of Hallsville Baptist Church, said the Missouri vote reinforces the truth that Americans are against homosexual marriage.
“And no federal judge — through legal gymnastics – should tell us otherwise,” Albert said. “Common sense prevailed. People with strong morals — whether those morals were learned from the Bible or common sense — realized that there is something intrinsically wrong with homosexual ‘marriage.’
“The people have spoken in Missouri and it is no longer a guess as to whether or not we are against homosexual ‘marriages.’ Missouri has set a pattern that I am sure other states will follow.”
Messer said hopes the marriage amendment campaign produced a paradigm switch in Missouri Baptist pulpits.
“I think many churches have realized that it is not a sin to address cultural issues from the pulpit,” Messer said. “If Christians don’t start taking a stand — as they have this time — we will continue down the path we have been going. We need to pick up on this lesson and start reclaiming our culture for Christ.”
Bob Baysinger is the managing editor of the Missouri Pathway, on the Web at www.mbcpathway.com.