Missouri's first openly gay senator wed this weekend
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Missouri's first openly gay senator wed this weekend

Date: May 4, 2009
By: Allison Blood
State Capitol Bureau
Links: August 2004 election results, 2004 House roll-call vote, 2004 Senate roll-call vote

JEFFERSON CITY - Jolie Justus, Missouri's first openly gay senator, took her seat on the Senate floor Monday for the first time as a married woman.

But Justus' marriage isn't recognized in Missouri because of a constitutional amendment overwhelmingly approved in 2004 by voters and legislators alike that mandates a marriage is between one man and one woman. 

"Missouri is not ready for same-sex marriage," Justus said Monday, though she also said she was "overwhelmed" with congratulations upon returning to work, despite the fact that her marriage is not recognized.

Justus and her partner, Shonda Garrison, were among 17 couples that traveled on a bus over the weekend to get married in Iowa, the state that most recently legalized same-sex marriages.

"I've been fighting, as everybody knows, for (lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender) equality for years now, and it would mean a lot to them to have us on the bus," said Justus, D-Jackson County. "And to my partner and me personally, it meant a lot for us to be on the bus, too, because we wanted to have that moment with those 16 other couples, and I'm glad that we did."

Some senators who voted for the 2004 amendment banning same-sex marriage declined to comment on the recent nuptials. Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, said: "I'm not going to respond to it."

Senate President Pro Tem Charlie Shields, R-St. Joseph, said he does not recognize Justus' marriage in this state. But despite disagreeing with her personal decision to get married, Shields said nothing will change inside the Capitol.

"Senator Justus is a fellow colleague, and we respect each other as senators, and this would have no effect on that," he said.

Justus said that nothing will change because of her marriage, likening it to any other senator who recently wed. She said she will continue to fight for the same issues on which she campaigned and has no intention of trying to legalize same-sex marriages in this state.

Justus and Garrison went to high school together in Branson and have been together for two years. Justus said she and Garrison plan to celebrate their commitment to each other in the fall once their schedules clear up.

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