A highly contested issue among legislators this session has been a proposed constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Darryl Franklin tells us why two Missouri men hope the amendment passes so their marriage can be recognized.
St. Louis residents Michael Getty and Brian Patruba travelled to Toronto, Canada, last June within weeks of the province of Ontario allowing same-sex couples to marry.
Getty and Patruba vowed to solemnize their commitment to each other by becoming one of the first gay couples to marry in Canada.
Upon returning to the U.S., the couple found that they wouldn't be embraced in the same manner they were north of the border.
Getty recalls the troubles the newlyweds encountered upon their return to the states.
"When you go through customs you have to submit a form and um it's one form per family so uh we were still just totally high from having gotten married that we figured uh alright we're legally married now, we're going to submit one form because legally we are a family and um they would have none of it. They refused to let us through unless we filled out two forms."
The customs form is a mandatory form that individuals or families are required to fill out in order to reenter the U.S.
Getty and Patruba feel like they were discriminated against, but Republican Rep. Bryan Stevenson--a voice of opposition to the gay marriage issue--told lawmakers that we already discriminate as a society in certain ways.
"We do discriminate against murderers. We stick them in jail. We discriminate against thieves, we fine them. We discriminate against drunk drivers. There are any number of things that we quote quote discriminate against."
"Why would we do that what is the basis for our law?"
"The basis for that law is for the betterment of the structure and society as a whole."
Democratic Rep. Melba Curls says discrimination by state lawmakers is viewed more negatively than other places.
Curls says the same-sex marriage issue reminds her of this state's strong history of racial prejudice.
"I view this as a form of discrimination. Not too long ago, on the books of this state, this state in Missouri we had a law that says an African-American cannot marry a white person."
Getty says the main issue for lawmakers isn't pro- or anti-gay rights but a decision that could result in equality for all Missourians.
"You can think or say whatever you like about gay people in Missouri and plenty of our legislators do but what it comes down to is whether or not you agree in equality under the law for everyone or just the people you like".
Many Republican lawmakers like Sarah Steelman are trying to push a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.
Steelman says Missouri can't wait to see how the issue plays out on the national level.
"Well whatever happens on the national level, if it's a constitutional, U.S. constitutional amendment, that's going to take several years. In Massachusetts the court issue that everyone was talking about was under the Massachusetts constitution. That was a state question. So I think doing the constitutional amendment in Missouri this year, is a good proactive approach."
Getty says the constitution as it stands now entitles everyone to these rights and the reason legislators are trying to pass the amendments is because people simply can't come to grips with their prejudices.
"People are waking up to the fact that um our constitution um promises rights that because of their prejudices people simply aren't comfortable with. And so now it's become quite a panic to um fix that before it becomes possible for people to be treated equally."
Despite Getty's belief that people are waking up to the issue, Sen. Steelman believes most Missourians would support a constitutional amendment on the issue.
"I think most Missourians support the definition of marriage as between only a man and a woman."
Missouri has a law in place right now prohibiting gay marriage, whether that law becomes a constitutional amendment remains to be seen.