Jackson County GOP fails to censure gay MO Republican lawmaker

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State Rep. Chris Sander, a Lone Jack Republican, speaks on the floor of the Missouri House.

State Rep. Chris Sander, a Lone Jack Republican, speaks on the floor of the Missouri House.

A censure of a gay Missouri Republican lawmaker failed to get enough votes to pass at a meeting of the Jackson County Republican Party on Monday.

However, the county party voted 44-14 to pass a separate resolution stating that marriage was only valid between a man and a woman. It states that any member of the party could be censured for trying to define marriage as anything else.

The failed censure targeted state Rep. Chris Sander, a Lone Jack Republican who told The Star about the results of the two votes. The county party was considering censuring Sander for proposing a constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between “two individuals” instead of a man and a woman.

While the county party voted 32-24 in favor of censuring Sander, the resolution needed a supermajority to pass, Sander said.

“I feel unwelcome, unsupported, and excluded by (a) limited group of members on (the) Jackson County GOP committee,” Sander said in a texted statement Tuesday. “I attend our meetings, support our committee, support our voters decisions, and pay dues as a Van Buren Township committeeman.”

Jackson County GOP Chair Mark Anthony Jones, who is also openly gay, did not return several emails, calls and texts from The Star on Tuesday.

The county party has for the past three months considered resolutions censuring Sander, accusing him of deviating from the party’s platform for trying to recognize same-sex marriage through a proposed constitutional amendment he filed this year. The attempts have all been unsuccessful amid infighting among party members over the process of filing censures against state lawmakers.

Jones in February ruled a similar censure motion out of order, later calling it “dead on arrival.” In March, the county party decided not to vote on a censure and opted to have individual members sign a petition to consider a future censure.

The separate anti-gay marriage resolution approved by the county party was called the “Defense of Marriage.” The resolution quotes the Missouri Republican Party platform, claiming that marriage is only valid between a man and a woman.

While federal law enshrines same-sex marriage, the Missouri Constitution still defines marriage as between a man and a woman under an amendment approved by voters in 2004. That amendment was nullified in 2015 when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned statewide bans on same-sex marriage nationwide.

Sander’s proposed constitutional amendment, filed this year, would bring Missouri in line with the federal “Respect for Marriage Act” signed by President Joe Biden late last year, which enshrined protections for same-sex and interracial marriage into federal law.

A reporter for The Kansas City Star covering Missouri government and politics, Kacen Bayless is a native of St. Louis, Missouri. He graduated from the University of Missouri with an emphasis in investigative reporting. He previously covered projects and investigations in coastal South Carolina. In 2020, he was awarded South Carolina’s top honor for assertive journalism.

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