Region sets pace for gay marriage opposition

Friday, August 6, 2004

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Missouri voters made their opposition to same-sex marriage quite clear Tuesday when, with 70.7 percent support, they ratified Amendment 2, which defines marriage as being only between a man and a woman in the state constitution.

In Southeast Missouri that strong sentiment against same-sex marriage was even more pronounced as a combined 84.6 percent of voters in 18 area counties endorsed the amendment.

On the failed Amendment 1, which would have authorized casino gambling on the White River at Rockaway Beach, Southeast Missouri voters generally reflected the dim statewide view of the proposal. Amendment 1 fell well short of winning a majority with 44.1 percent statewide support, and area voters were slightly less enthusiastic as only 43.2 percent favored ratification.

State Rep. Kevin Engler, who sponsored the legislation that put the same-sex marriage measure on the ballot, said even he was surprised by the overwhelming margin by which Amendment 2 passed.

"I think it is just the silent majority speaking up," said Engler, R-Farmington. "They are not homophobic. They are tolerant people. But at some point you have to stand up and say enough is enough."

Passed in every countyThe amendment, designed to shield an existing state law banning same-sex marriage from future judicial review, passed in every Missouri county. It failed in St. Louis city but only by three percentage points.

In Southeast Missouri, voters in every county gave at least 80 percent support to the measure except for St. Francois and Ste. Genevieve. But even in those counties, the "yes" votes far exceeded the statewide average.

Chuck Walters, a leader of the drive to bring a casino to his hometown of Rockaway Beach, said the high turnout among socially conservative voters attracted to the polls by the same-sex marriage issue contributed to the defeat of Amendment 1.

The measure passed in just 10 of Missouri's 114 counties and also failed in St. Louis city. In Southeast Missouri, only Mississippi and Carter county voters favored ratification.

Residents of Rockaway Beach, with the backing of a $12 million media campaign funded by the investors in the planned casino, said the project would have revived the town's struggling economy. Business interests in nearby Branson fought Amendment 1 out of concerns that a casino would harm their city's reputation as a family-friendly tourist destination.

Walters said he and other civic leaders pursued the casino only after exhausting other options to bring good-paying jobs to the tiny town of 577 residents. He is unsure of the community's next step.

"We didn't have a pre-ordained second plan in mind," Walters said. "The defeat came as quite a shock."

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The percentages by which voters in 18 Southeast Missouri counties supported Amendment 1, the authorization of casino gambling at Rockaway Beach, and Amendment 2, the constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. Voters statewide rejected Amendment 1 but ratified Amendment 2:

CountyAmendment Amendment
1 2
Cape Girardeau4683.2
New Madrid47.883.8
St. Francois39.679
Ste. Genevieve4475.3


Missouri 43.284.6

Source: Southeast Missourian

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