Branson Missouri's Jolie Justus Leads Gay Marriage Rights Rally in Kansas City

Branson native Jolie Justus spoke to a crowd of 500 this weekend in downtown Kansas City in opposition to Proposition 8, a ballot proposal in California that defined - or in this case - redefined marriage to exclude same sex couples.

Same gender couples flocked to California earlier this year where 16,000 gay marriages were performed before voters overturned a judicial decision that opened the gates for same-sex couples to marry. California law remains gender neutral on matters relating to domestic partnerships.

Proposition 8 squeaked by with 51 percent of Californians and 70 percent of black voters supporting the initiative which limited marriage to "one man and one woman." The initiative sparked passion throughout the states where record sums of money were dumped into both sides of the campaign. The California Teachers association dropped a cool million supporting the right for gays to marry while the Mormon church voiced strong opposition to same-sex marriage after the president (also known to members as a prophet) released a manifesto on marriage which mobilized church members in support of the proposition alongside evangelicals prior to the election.

Mormon churches and temples have been the target of protests since the proposition passed. Interestingly, Justus's district sits in Jackson County, Missouri where the Mormon church was founded. According to Mormon lore the saints promise to return to Jackson County where more liberal sects are currently dominant.

The largest offshoot of the Mormon Church - or rather church founder Joseph Smith - is the Community of Christ, formerly known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints (RLDS). Some believe the Community of Christ may embrace gay membership in the near future. Several years ago the organization began ordaining female pastors after the Community of Christ Doctrine and Covenants Chap. 156 commanded congregations to accept women priesthood holders. The move by Community of Christ leadership caused a rift among Community of Christ members and several conservative congregations broke away from central leadership.

Midtown Kansas City is known for tolerant attitudes towards gay couples as neighborhood churches embracing gay members is more of a norm than an exception.

During a series of interviews with Jolie Justus before her freshman session in the Missouri Senate we spoke about growing up in Branson and how that affected her attitudes or acceptance of her own migration from a heterosexual marriage to a committed relationship with a female. Justus didn't seem to hold any resentment or acknowledge experiencing homophobic attitudes that stunted her development. Still, when Justus became the first "outed lesbian" Missouri Senator many Branson residents were unaware of her orientation - including some family members.

Justus has earned the respect of her colleagues and maintains positive report from legislators on her own merit as a Senator - a Senator who happens to be gay.