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Marriage Equality

Despite Conservative Opposition, Marriage Recognition Headed to Missouri

Despite Conservative Opposition, Marriage Recognition Headed to Missouri


Antigay Missouri lawmakers may not like it, but they're powerless to stop the state from recognizing gay and lesbian marriages this month.

Marriage equality is coming to Missouri this month -- at least for some couples.

Last month, Judge J. Dale Youngs ruled in Barrier v. Vasterling that the state must recognize the legal marriages of gay and lesbian couples peformed in other states. That ruling became final on Monday of this week, and is followed by a 10-day waiting period during which parties may file an appeal.

Much to the frustration of antigay lawmakers, the only state officials who are allowed to appeal such a ruling have no desire to do so. Unlike in states where top officials are continuing to pursue anti-equality vendettas, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster announced last month that he would not pursue an appeal.

"Missouri's future will be one of inclusion, not exclusion," Koster said.

That means that unless something strange happens with Missouri law in the next two weeks, the state will begin recognizing out-of-state marriage licenses. And on Wednesday, a state judge struck down Missouri's ban on performing same-sex marriages, clearing the way for couples to begin applying for marriage licenses immediately.

That has put House Speaker Tim Jones in a bad mood. He told reporters that there are "a lot of possible remedies the General Assembly as a whole could pursue." While it's true that the legislature could certainly pursue a wide range of options for stopping the recognition, none of them will be successful. The decision of the federal judge is quite clear, and there's nothing that Jones can do to challenge it.

"While having a standardized definition of marriage ... may be a legitimate governmental interest, there is no logical relationship between that interest and laws that discriminate against gay men and lesbians," Youngs wrote.

In fact, Speaker Jones himself won't be around for much longer. His term ends at the end of the year, and term limits prevent him from running again.

Meanwhile, state institutions are already adapting to the change. Late last month, the Board of Regents at Southeast Missouri State University voted to extend benefits to legally married same-sex spouses.

While the Barrier case applies only to couples married out-of-state, two other lawsuits are currently working their way through the courts. A state judge just struck down Missouri's ban on same-sex marriage in the Florida/Carpenter case, which concerns a Missouri clerk who attempted to issue a license earlier this year. The Lawson case, in federal court, concerns marriages performed in Missouri.

In addition, lawsuits continue to move ahead in neighoring states.

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Matt Baume