Governor Jay Nixon says he is directing the Missouri Department of Revenue to accept tax returns filed jointly by same-sex couples who are legally married in other states but have income in Missouri. Nixon said he would take the action with an executive order by the end of the day.
Nixon says the action is necessary due to federal rulings and does not sanction same-sex marriage in Missouri, which is banned under a 2004 amendment to the Constitution passed by more than 70 percent of voters.
The U.S. Supreme Court in June invalidated part of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. The U.S. Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service then ruled legally married same-sex couples will be treated as married for federal tax purposes no matter where they live.
Nixon says because Missouri’s tax code is tied directly to the federal government, and the state requires married couples who file joint federal returns to also file state taxes jointly, he had to take action.
The Executive Director of PROMO, a statewide advocacy group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality, A.J. Bockelman, says his group has been raising the tax filing issue since the Supreme Court decision in June.
Bockelman says Missouri is one of more than 20 states whose tax returns are coupled with the federal government. He says since the state also does not recognize same-sex marriage, couples whose marriages are recognized elsewhere needed clarity on how to file taxes in Missouri, and says the Governor’s action provides that.
Missouri House Speaker Tim Jones disputes the Governor’s interpretation and calls on Nixon to produce a legal opinion from Attorney General Chris Koster justifying the executive order.
In a statement, Jones accuses the Governor of defying Missouri voters and, “unlawfully ignoring a constitutional amendment to provide the Governor’s liberal allies a policy victory.”
Nixon made clear his action does not extend further rights or recognition to same-sex couples, but told reporters he has shifted his view on that issue.
“I just have come to believe after reflecting on this … I think all of have in looking at what discrimination is … I just don’t think we should treat folks differently in this zone anymore. If folks want to get married, they should be able to get married.”
Of Missouri’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, Nixon added he hopes voters will reexamine the issue.”
“A lot of folks are thinking about issues of equality in new ways and what constitutes discrimination … I would certainly welcome another opportunity for that to be on the ballot.”
Bockelman says Nixon’s remarks in support of same-sex marriage reflect a movement happening throughout the U.S.
“We’ve seen an evolution not just of the President, not just of our elected officials,” Bockelman says, “but of the general electorate. The general populus is moving in support of recognizing marriages between same-sex couples.”