Mo. Baptists gather signatures in support of marriage amendment

Thursday, March 18, 2004

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- The Missouri Baptist Convention says it has delivered more than 10,000 petition signatures to state legislative leaders encouraging passage of a constitutional amendment against gay marriage.

The Senate already has passed a proposed amendment to the Missouri Constitution limiting marriage to one man and one woman. The House has not yet voted on the measure. If approved by both chambers, the proposal would appear on the November statewide ballot.

The state Baptist Convention said it collected the signatures in just a two-week period after posting the petition on its Internet site, without promoting it in any other way.

Missouri already has a statute declaring that the state's policy is "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 opponents of same-sex marriage believe that adding the language to the state's constitution would protect against a judge declaring the statute unconstitutional. Similar efforts are under way in other states as a reaction to a recent Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruling authorizing gay marriages.

The Missouri Baptist Convention represents 2,050 churches with memberships of more than 600,000 people.

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