Same-sex marriages performed in other states now valid in Missouri

Attorney General Koster said the ruling will help businesses in Missouri.
Seinga Macauley / Graphic Designer

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster announced Oct. 6 he will not appeal Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Dale Youngs’ Oct. 3 ruling on same-sex marriage.

Youngs ruled in Barrier v. Vasterling that Missouri’s ban on recognizing same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. The state must now recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.

Tony Rothert, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri and a representing attorney in the case, detailed its impact.

“Missouri must recognize not only the marriages of our plaintiff couples but of all same-sex Missouri couples who have been legally married outside of the state,” Rothert said.

The ruling will impact tax laws and other regulations that apply to spouses, extending those rights to same-sex couples. The state is also expanding its retirement and health care plans to meet the needs of these couples, per the ruling.

Koster explained he would not appeal Youngs’ ruling following the Supreme Court’s Oct. 6 decision not to hear similar cases regarding same-sex marriage brought by other states.

“The circuit court's judgment in Barrier v. Vasterling held that Missouri must recognize marriages lawfully entered into in other states,” Koster said in a news release. “We will not appeal that judgment. Our national government is founded upon principles of federalism — a system that empowers Missouri to set policy for itself, but also obligates us to honor contracts entered into in other states.”

Koster said Missouri must look toward the future as same-sex marriage laws are changing. By allowing this ruling to stand, he said, Missouri will become more attractive to businesses.

“A consequence of this morning's ruling by the United States Supreme Court is that gay marriage will soon be legal in as many as 30 states,” Koster said. “At a time when Missouri is competing to attract the nation's premier businesses and most talented employees, we should not demand that certain individuals surrender their marriage licenses in order to live and work among us.”

Rothert said he agrees with Koster’s view.

“Any time a state removes a discriminatory law, it becomes more inviting to employees and businesses,” Rothert said.

Koster’s decision has created controversy among Missouri’s congressional representatives, with some Republicans discussing possible alternatives to appeal the case. Koster is a Democrat, and his decision by some has been viewed as partisan.

Rothert said he felt the ruling was both a personal victory and a new step forward in the state’s history.

“It has been one of the highlights of my career to be one of the attorneys for the case that showed Missouri that the marriages of our plaintiffs are no different from any other marriage,” Rothert said.

The ACLU felt this case would be instrumental in furthering gay rights in Missouri, Rothert said.

“The ACLU of Missouri defends and expands the constitutional rights and civil liberties of all Missourians, so it was a natural fit to file this lawsuit,” he said. “Missouri has traditionally recognized the marriages of all legal marriages performed in other states, including marriages of first cousins, common law marriages and marriages of minors.”

Koster’s decision represents what he sees as a step towards the future.

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

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