The fight over whether or not same-sex couples can marry in Missouri is moving on several different fronts.
In separate cases in Missouri have been weighed three questions: whether Missouri employers must grant benefits to employees’ same-sex spouses, whether county recorders of deeds should issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and whether same-sex marriages in other states must be recognized.
St. Louis University law professor Marcia McCormick says the question regarding out-of-state same-sex marriages appears settled, with Attorney General Chris Koster not challenging a court ruling that they must be recognized.
“Although it could easily become unsettled if a case was brought in another county and there was a different result reached, or if the attorney general decided to appeal that decision,” says McCormick.
Koster is challenging the ruling by a St. Louis circuit judge last week that Missouri’s ban violates the due process and equal protection rights under the U.S. Constitution. He says he will also challenge a federal judge’s ruling on Friday that Missouri’s ban is unconstitutional.
Then there is the possibility that state bans on same-sex marriage will wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court. If they are stricken down, Missouri’s could follow.
The Court in October let stand lower court decisions in five cases that overturned gay marriage bans in other states, but last week the federal 6th Circuit upheld a prohibition on gay marriage. That decision means there is a split between the lower courts and increases the chance the Supreme Court will take up the issue.
“The 6th Circuit decision to uphold bans on same-sex marriage as constitution under the federal Constitution certainly creates a greater likelihood that the Supreme Court will decide the issue,” says McCormick, “but it doesn’t guarantee that. The Supreme Court might still wait and see what further developments are.”
She says there are also notable differences between the arguments in challenges of other states’ bans those in litigation of Missouri’s.
“The issues are pretty similar but the arguments that states have made and the litigation strategies have been a little bit different,” says McCormick
AUDIO: McCormick explains the difference between defense of Missouri’s ban and that in other states, 1:50
Meanwhile some Republican lawmakers say they will look for ways to preserve Missouri’s ban on same-sex marriage.