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Slay calls for Missouri to allow civil unions, now recognized in Illinois

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 16, 2011 - St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay declared today that he's marking LGBT Pride month by calling for the legalization of civil unions for same-sex couples in Missouri.

Slay, who has several gay siblings and long has supported gay rights, wrote on his blog that his latest proposal is prompted by the actions across the Mississippi River in Illinois.

"On June 1, the state of Illinois began recognizing civil unions that offer homosexual and heterosexual partners many of the same rights allowed to married couples under state law," Slay wrote. "The rights now recognized just across the river from us include automatic hospital visitation rights, the ability to make emergency medical decisions for partners, the ability to share a room in a nursing home, adoption and parental rights, pension benefits, inheritance rights, and the right to dispose of a partner's remains.

"It has only been two weeks, but nothing terrible has happened in Illinois."

Without mentioning it, though, Slay appeared to acknowledge the stiff challenge that a civil-union effort would face in Missouri, where voters in 2004 overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages:

"Section 33: That to be valid and recognized in this state, a marriage shall exist only between a man and a woman."

The provision's wording would appear to leave the window open to same-sex civil unions. However, the Republican-dominated General Assembly has been cool -- and, in some cases, hostile -- to any gay-rights proposals.

Slay took solace in the gains made in the city:

"I live in a city that has had a domestic partnership registry for more than a decade. I live in a city that seven years ago soundly voted its opposition to an amendment to the state constitution that bans same-sex marriage. I live in a city enriched and enlivened by its population of gay, lesbian, and transgendered residents.

"June is LGBT Pride month. I use the occasion of its celebration to acknowledge my strong support for a civil unions law in Missouri."

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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