Missouri Courts and Legislature Weigh-In On Same-Sex Marriage

In October, Judge J. Dale Young ruled that Missouri must recognize same-sex couples who married in states that recognize such unions, despite Missouri’s constitutional ban on gay marriage.  Missouri legislators have now taken action to overturn the ruling.  Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey and House Speaker Tim Jones have moved to intervene in a Jackson County case in order to appeal Judge Young’s ruling to the Missouri Supreme Court.

While Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster chose not to appeal Judge Young’s ruling, the Attorney General’s office has sought an appeal in a similar ruling handed down by St. Louis Circuit Judge Rex Burlison on November 5, 2014.  Judge Burlison’s ruling resulted in a rush of marriage license applicants of same-sex couples in St. Louis City.

In many respects the pending litigation mirrors the arguments made in the Supreme Courts overturning part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.  The Act denied tax, health and veterans benefits to legally married gay couples.  Missouri’s consolidated healthcare plan, which provides benefits for state employees and retirees, began covering those same-sex couples who have valid marriage certificates after Judge Young’s ruling.  Missouri State Employees’ Retirement System has taken similar steps to provide service benefits for same-sex couples.

Adding additional intrigue to the issue, the Missouri Supreme Court will hear a case on a same-sex couple attempting to divorce.  The couple was married in Iowa, but sought a divorce in St. Louis County.  The Court refused jurisdiction because of Missouri ban on same sex marriage.

It appears that the issue of same sex marriage may be reaching a critical juncture in Missouri.  While under federal law employers in Missouri must offer the same health and pension benefits to same sex couples as those offered to opposite sex couples, this issue remains a hotly contested and politicized.  Check back to the McMahon Berger blog for more updates.

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