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Activists rally for gay rights

March 03, 2004
By: Jonathan Moxey
State Capital Bureau
Links: HJR 39, SJR 29, HB 885

JEFFERSON CITY -- Over 200 gay rights activists crowded the Capitol Wednesday to speak out against legislation affecting the gay community.

Activists came out in record numbers to sound off against a proposed amendment to the Missouri Constitution limiting marriage to a man and a woman. The proposed amendment passed the Senate last week.

"This is not legislation about making same-sex marriage legal, it's about writing discrimination into our state Constitution," said Julie Brueggemann, development director for PROMO.

PROMO, the group that organized the event, advocates the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community.

The activists received support during a rally in the Capitol Rotunda from some Democratic legislators who opposed the measure.

Sen. Joan Bray, D-St. Louis County, criticized Republican lawmakers who supported the amendment to defend the "sanctity of marriage."

"The sanctity of marriage--what does that mean?" Bray asked. "To me sanctity of marriage means a commitment to love, honor, respect monogamy."

Bray said opponents of marriage have no problem marrying and divorcing as long as the relationship is between a man and a woman.

"A constitutional amendment absolutely discriminates on gender," Bray said.

Rep. Kevin Engler, R-Farmington, disagrees.

"I don't think we're discriminating now," Engler said. "The fact that we want to keep marriage the same way it has been for century after century after century, as the focal point of the family, is not discriminating."

Engler is the primary sponsor of a proposed amendment in the House that would also limit marriage to a man and a woman.

Other concerns were raised over a House bill that would prevent public institutions receiving state funds from adopting a discrimination policy that exceeds current federal protections.

The bill would institutions who add sexual orientation to their discrimination policy in jeopardy of losing state funds.

"The University of Missouri would be forced to choose between protecting their LGBT students and faculty from discrimination and losing money from the state," said PROMO Executive Director Jeff Wunrow.

The crowd Wednesday was the largest PROMO had ever had and the event went as well as could be expected, Wunrow said.

"We knew who wasn't inclined to support us in the first place," Wunrow said. "But we also knew how important it was for them to get the opportunity to meet gay and lesbian folks from their district as they're making their decisions."

Meagan Young, an MU sophomore, was disheartened by the reception she got from state legislators. Young said she came to express the feelings of the people she knows and loves.

"They're not listening and it's very sad for us," Young said. "My love is not verified."