Column: Missouri’s fight for equality

It’s time for Missouri to legalize same-sex marriage

The fight for LGBT equality in Missouri has not been very grand or spectacular. There have not been miraculous breakthroughs such as legalizing same-sex marriage, nor has there been a very large backlash to the idea of its legalization. The media is more concerned with the extreme reactions in the far west and the deep south, largely ignoring the middle area of the country.

This could quite possibly be why same-sex marriage laws have become stagnant in Missouri. There is not enough media attention for this topic. Therefore, the state has not made any significant changes in the law regarding same-sex marriage for more than 10 years.

Perhaps Missouri is waiting for our other, more outgoing neighbors to decide what to do before we enact a change.

However, recently, some citizens are realizing that this laissez-faire attitude is not beneficial. Missouri residents are becoming more aware that they need to push the state to implement more fair legislation because it is the right thing to do, not just because it is what the majority of the country is doing.

Specifically, Columbia is taking a solid stance on this issue. City Council has made it legal for employees in same-sex marriages to designate their spouses as beneficiaries in their retirement plans. However, they still will not be able to receive the same survivor benefits through the state pension plans.

Columbia has taken a large step toward equality in Missouri. The decisions of this city can create a domino effect to other cities and towns, and they can be inspired to create similar legislation.

The big inhibitor of this situation is the state legislation. Missouri has an amendment in place that narrowly defines marriage as one man and one woman. Same-sex couples are not recognized by the state. It is vital that the fight for equality begins to reach the state level in order to overturn this amendment.

Currently there are three lawsuits in progress, in Kansas City, Jackson County and St. Louis, that are battling the state. Multiple same-sex couples that have been legally married elsewhere are trying to fight against these bans that violate their due process and equal protection rights that are defended by the federal government.

Besides the obvious moral obligation of legalizing same-sex marriage, economic factors play a large role as well. According to the Williams Institute, if same-sex marriage became legal in Missouri, state revenue would increase by more than $36.6 million in three years. Furthermore, $1 billion more could be made each year if every state in the US legalized same-sex marriage, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

In a period of economic downturn and the continuous struggle with foreign debt, this could make a significant change. It would create a plethora of jobs and relieve American citizens from some of their financial problems. It seems like the United States would have little to lose. The legalization would do more good than harm.

The fight for equality in Missouri is vital to ensure fairer treatment for the LGBT community throughout the state and the country. It has already slowly begun on a local level, but gaining influence on the state level is needed to change state legislation. There are so many positive outcomes to the enactment of same-sex marriage. It is necessary to keep them in mind when debating other people’s rights.

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