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Instead, Nixon says things like this: "If people are in favor of banning gay marriages, we ought to get to the task of doing it. People are walking down the front steps of churches and city halls in Massachusetts because Massachusetts did not have a constitutional amendment banning gay marriages." That's what he told The Kansas City Star on May 21, when the Democrats were desperate to get their issue on the ballot in August.
Curious whether Nixon's Supreme Court victory had given him any more guts, we called his office to request the attorney general's professional opinion on gay marriage.
"It's to defend the law that's currently on the books -- that marriage is between a man and a woman," said his spokesman, Scott Holste.
And as the campaign summer grows hotter, that's how big-name Democrats appear to be dealing with the issue. They're against the constitutional amendment not because gay people deserve the right to marry the ones they love, just like straight people, but because there's already a law that makes it illegal.
Not all Democrats are such wusses, though. When state reps were voting on whether to put the amendment forward, 26 of the House's 73 Democrats just said no. Mike Sager of Lee's Summit was among them.
"I wish there were more people who would step forward and speak out on this issue," Sager tells the Pitch. "There's a lot of people who share our core values who think this amendment is very, very wrong, but they can't find a way to get on top of it politically. I don't think in the history of Missouri there's ever been something this important. We need to live in a society where we take discrimination out of the constitution rather than put it in."
Sager says it's not just fear of political suicide that makes Democrats squishy on this issue. "It's just like when we do the pro-life versus pro-choice votes. The pro-life people come down and terrorize the Capitol for a few days. Pro-choice people don't threaten to kill anybody, but pro-life people threaten to blow people up." Same thing goes on gay issues, Sager says. "Gay people don't shoot people, hang them from trees, burn them alive. But the people who hate gay people do all those things."
Apparently, that sort of atmosphere can make even a macho man like Jay Nixon quiver in his boots. Who knows what Nixon really believes. Maybe he's opposed to gay marriage for personal reasons; if that's the case, he should just say so. As it is, because of his role in arguing for an August vote, he's the party's most visible opinion leader on the topic.
Too bad it's not Sager.
"I was the state rep who stood up on the floor of the House and talked about how my daughter didn't want to ride the school bus anymore because someone called her a lesbian, and I told her she shouldn't let ignorant bigots offend her," Sager tells us, recapping the legislature's debates. Out in the hallway afterward, he says, "a couple of Republican reps called me a fag lover."
Sager figures he's the only state rep from a district that's less than 65 percent Democratic who voted against the amendment.
"I'm the number-one Republican target in 2004," he says. "They've announced it in the hallways and in press releases. But I voted no because it was the right thing to do. I will not help promulgate hatred and bigotry. These people are sitting at home thinking, If we can just get a few more bigots to go to the polls, we can keep the majority."