JEFFERSON CITY - U.S. Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) spoke out Monday to bolster support for a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in Missouri.
Akin joined state Sen. Sarah Steelman, R-Rolla, and state Rep. Kevin Engler, R-Farmington, in an afternoon news conference in the Capitol Rotunda. Both Steelman and Engler have sponsored measures that would define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
Several versions of a similar amendment to the U.S. Constitution are currently being considered in Congress, but Akin said it was important that each state show where they stand on the issue. President Bush called for an amendment defining marriage last month.
Akin expressed the importance of acting now in lieu of waiting for federal action.
"It's not going to be clearly defined for some period of time." Akin said of the U.S. Constitutional amendment. "We're talking a number-of-year process. Nailing something down in an individual state is helpful."
Akin later said the issue would ultimately have to be decided on the federal level. A state constitutional amendment would not supercede a clause of the U.S. Constitution.
"It is true that ultimately the question will probably go either to the U.S. Supreme Court or a U.S. Constitutional amendment," Akin said. "That is the end, but I don't think that end is this year."
Steelman added that a state constitutional amendment would show Missourians' stance on marriage, if challenged in courts.
"This constitutional amendment, allowing voters to vote on it, would simply state the policy and the will of the people in this state," Steelman said.
Opponents voiced concern about altering the constitution.
"I think the constitution should be reserved for extremely important items and I do not think this meets that test," said Senator Rita Days, D-St. Louis County. "I don't think this is an issue that the majority of the people in this state are interested in."
Days also said the amendment would be discriminatory.
"It's selecting a group of people and putting them into the constitution," Days said. "It is a civil right that we would be taking away from these people."
Missouri state law currently only recognizes marriage between a man and a woman, regardless of where the marriage was performed. A total of 36 states have similar laws banning same-sex marriages.
Steelman said adding a constitutional amendment would strengthen their case if challenged in court.
"It's not about denying anyone's right or discriminating--it's about defining marriage," Steelman said.
Akin, who filed for re-election after the news conference, expressed concern about the government's separation of powers. He claimed the judicial branch was beginning to wear "legislative hats." He pointed to the Dred Scott case and Plessy v. Ferguson, where the Supreme Court handed down the infamous "separate but equal" decision, as previous examples of the courts overstepping their bounds.
Akin also said changing the definition of marriage would bring other issues, such as child custody and retirement, into play.
"When you just arbitrarily change a definition, particularly in a federal court, the cascade effect into 50 different states and all of their statutes is really a type of judicial anarchy," Akin said.