The ban was expected to pass in conservative Missouri, and experts say the campaign served as a barometer as to which tactics may work as other states take on the issue, according to the Associated Press. As many as 12 other states are expected to vote on similar amendments this year.
In Missouri, the amendment had 70 percent approval with 91 percent of precincts reporting.
Although Missouri already has a law defining marriage as only between a man and woman, amendment supporters said they feared a court could overrule the state law, and a constitutional amendment would put them on stronger legal footing to defend it.
“I’m very gratified and encouraged and thankful that the people of this state understand our current policy’s a wise public policy and they want to see it protected from a legal challenge,” said Vicky Hartzler, a spokeswoman for the Coalition to Protect Marriage in Missouri, the AP reported.
Thirty-seven other states have a law similar to Missouri’s saying marriage is between a man and woman. But since the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled to allow gay marriages, states have been moving to adopt constitutional amendments or other stronger laws.
Those who opposed Missouri’s amendment said they hoped to learn from the campaign and defeat the measures they view as unnecessary and discriminatory in other states.
“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.”
While opponents of same-sex marriage were hailing Missouri’s vote, supporters scored a legal victory in Washington state. There, King County Superior Court Judge William Downing ruled that “the denial to the plaintiffs of the right to marry constitutes a denial of substantive due process.”
His ruling is stayed until the state Supreme Court reviews the case, and no marriage licenses will be issued until then, said Jennifer Pizer, lead counsel for Lambda Legal Defense, according to the AP.
Six couples filed the lawsuit in March after King County refused to issue them marriage licenses, and two other couples later joined the suit. A second lawsuit was filed in April by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of 11 same-sex couples.
The couples’ lawsuits said the state’s Defense of Marriage Act, defining marriage as between a man and woman, violates the state’s constitution by depriving same-sex couples of the same privileges and immunities as other residents and depriving them of life, liberty or property without due process of law.
Downing rejected the argument that a ban on same-sex marriage would protect children from harm that may be caused by being raised in a nontraditional family.
King County Executive Ron Sims said the ruling was a powerful affirmation of equal rights, reported the AP. He didn’t issue the marriage licenses at first because he said they wouldn’t have any legal meaning, but he invited the couples to sue.