updated 6/3/2004 3:50:38 PM ET 2004-06-03T19:50:38

In a victory for the Democrats, Missourians will vote in August — not in November — on a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.

Under pressure from Missouri’s Supreme Court, Republican Secretary of State Matt Blunt agreed Thursday to put the measure on the ballot this summer.

The Democrats did not want the contentious issue to get tangled up in the November general election. Political observers said the gay-marriage amendment would draw lots of conservatives to the polls and give a boost to President Bush and Blunt, who is running for governor.

In a 6-1 decision Thursday, the state Supreme Court did not directly order Blunt to put the issue on the August ballot, but said he should. Shortly after the ruling, a Blunt spokesman said the secretary of state would follow the court’s wishes.

Democratic Gov. Bob Holden had called for an August vote shortly after legislators passed the proposed amendment.

But Blunt contended he could not follow the governor’s wishes, because legislative leaders did not send him the officially passed version of the amendment until after the May 25 deadline for notifying local election officials of items on the August ballot.

GOP lawmakers and Blunt all said they preferred the November ballot, because more people would be likely to vote on the issue than during the August party primaries.

Missouri already has a law against gay marriage. But legislators last month passed a proposed one-sentence addition to the Missouri Constitution: “That to be valid and recognized in this state, a marriage shall exist only between a man and a woman.”

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