Gay marriage reaches Senate

Sen. Joan Bray (D-St. Louis) debates the issue of gay marriage in the Senate.

Special to The Chart

Sen. Joan Bray (D-St. Louis) debates the issue of gay marriage in the Senate.

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – “If you are saying there is no value in a man and a woman getting married and having a child, then we are in serious trouble,” said Sen. Sarah Steelman (R-Rolla).

The Missouri Senate joined the rest of the nation, Feb. 24, asking the question of whether or not same-sex marriage will be allowed.

The reading of Senate Bill 097 came on the heels of the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling allowing gay marriage and President Bush’s request for an amendment to the Constitution that would outlaw same-sex marriage.

Opponents to the Senate bill wondered if it was necessary to change the Missouri Constitution, citing that if people after a period of time understand gay marriage, it would be more difficult to reverse the ruling.

Sen. Joan Bray (D-St.Louis) questioned the maker of the bill, Steelman about whether or not the bill was denying homosexuals the right to marry.

“I think it is disgusting, deplorable, and I don’t know why we want to debate this right now,” Bray said. “It is possible that over a short time, people will change their minds as they understand.”

“It would not deny anyone the right to marry,” Steelman said. “It merely defines marriage as a union between man and woman.”

Steelman associated a marriage between a man and woman with values that could not be replicated elsewhere.

“I want to hear you list these values so that I can tell you how they don’t just apply to a marriage between a man and woman,” Bray said.

The ability to have children and the ability to create a stable, strong family were two reasons given by Steelman.

Bray said she had friends who had been involved in numerous marriages that had resulted in children born out of wedlock and time spent in divorce court.

She also said she had gay friends who had been together for 40 years. She asked who Steelman thought was a burden to society.

Bray compared the current bill to the idea of interracial marriages.

She said a few years ago many people did not approve of them, but no bill was introduced to change the Missouri Constitution. After time, people understood.

“This is not based on race, this isn’t race,” Steelman said, “discrimination of race is a horrible thing.”

Bray asked if discrimination of sex was OK.

Steelman said the two were not comparable.

“We aren’t telling the senator from St. Louis she has to marry her boyfriend,” Steelman said.

“No, but we are sure telling her she can’t marry her girlfriend,” Bray said. “Aren’t we denying homosexuals the right to marry? Can Joe marry Sam?”

Steelman said her sons’ names were

Joe and Sam and that not everyone could always marry whom they wanted.

“You can’t marry a 12-year-old girl,” Steelman said.

Bray said the current Senate bill included no wording that would prevent someone from marrying a 12-year-old.

Sen. Gary Nodler (R-Joplin) is a co-sponsor of the bill.

“I obviously support defending the definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman,” Nodler said.