June 30, 2015

Next goal for Missouri LGBT community is a nondiscrimination act

Same-sex couples began getting married in Missouri Friday after the U.S. Supreme Court made such marriages legal nationwide. Now, LGBT activists are looking to their next goal.

Governor Jay Nixon says events in the State Capitol should not include the selling of alcohol. (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)A dispute appears to have arisen between Democratic Governor Jay Nixon and Republican legislative leaders over whether the General Assembly must come back to the Capitol early to help cover the cost of response to unrest in Ferguson.  (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

The Missouri State Capitol

State Representative Stephen Webber (D-Columbia) says Missouri next needs to pass a law barring discrimination against members of the LGBT community.

“People can still be fired for their sexual orientation. Newly married gay couples can be denied housing,” said Webber. “This is not the end. This is an important step, but we’re going to continue pushing forward until everybody in the state has complete equal rights.”

The Missouri Nondiscrimination Act has once been passed by the state Senate, but never in the state House.

Diane Booth, who married her partner in Iowa in 2013, says a nondiscrimination act needs to be passed at the federal level.

“You can be fired at will. You can be refused service in a restaurant. Heck, they’re even trying to refuse people selling flowers and baking cakes,” said Booth.

Missouri counties issuing same-sex marriage licenses

Several counties in Missouri are now issuing same-sex marriage licenses, following Friday’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court recognizing gay marriage as legal throughout the country. Boone County Recorder of Deeds Nora Dietzel says the transition simply involved updating the marriage license application and getting the legal approval.


Same sex couple apply for marriage license in Boone County

She says they were ready and waiting to start issuing the licenses.

“We are very fortunate in Boone County to have our own legal counsel who was able to respond so quickly to this matter,” said Dietzel. “They made it a top priority so that we could begin this very quickly. I know that not all counties have that luxury.”

Dietzel says staff tried to be proactive and put measures in place to start issuing these licenses immediately after the high-court’s decision.

“I sat down with each of my staff members and made sure they were comfortable with the concept and that they would have no problems treating all applicants with the same level of excellent customer service that we’ve always been known for. We were really ready to go and it’s business as usual for the same-sex couples, just as it would be for any other couples that we issue to.”

Dietzel said they already had at least five couples request licenses by early Friday afternoon. Clay County also began issuing same sex marriage licenses on Friday as well as several other counties in the state.




Missouri leaders react to Supreme Court ruling making same-sex marriage legal

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that same-sex couples have a right to marry, striking down bans in Missouri and other states.

Same-sex couples have started receiving marriage licenses in Boone County.  (photo courtesy; ABC 17)

Same-sex couples have started receiving marriage licenses in Boone County. (photo courtesy; ABC 17)

The court ruled 5-4 in a case that originated in four states; Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote the majority opinion, saying gay couples have a fundamental right to marry.

“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family,” wrote Kennedy. “In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than they once were.”

Chief Justice John G. Roberts wrote a dissenting opinion saying the Constitution had nothing to say about same-sex marriage.

“If you are among the many Americans – of whatever sexual orientation – who favor expanding same-sex marriage, by all means celebrate today’s decision,” wrote Roberts. “Celebrate the achievement of a desired goal. Celebrate the opportunity for a new expression of commitment to a partner. Celebrate the availability of new benefits. But do not celebrate the Constitution. It had nothing to do with it.”

Missouri elected officials and lawmakers have weighed in on the ruling , some with praise, others saying it undermines states’ rights.

“The history of our country has always been one of moving toward inclusion and equality,” wrote Missouri Attorney General and Democratic candidate for governor, Chris Koster. “I applaud the court for their courage and strong sense of fairness. Missourians should be seen as equals under the law; regardless of their gender, race, or whom they love.”

Koster also dismissed appeals in cases related to same-sex marriage in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling.

Governor Jay Nixon (D) wrote in a statement, “Today’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges is a major victory for equality and an important step toward a fairer and more just society for all Americans,” Gov. Nixon said. “No one should be discriminated against because of who they are or who they love. In the coming days, I will be taking all necessary and appropriate actions to ensure this decision is implemented throughout the state of Missouri.”

St. Louis Congressman William Lacy Clay (D) said in a statement, “This landmark ruling in Obergefell v Hodges affirms the fundamental constitutional guarantee of equal protection under the law for every American, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. No one has the right to tell someone else who they can love. And no one has the right to define someone else’s family.

“This decision is a major advance for civil rights and a victory for millions of LGBT Americans who deserve the freedom to marry and to have that life commitment legally recognized in every state.”

West-central Missouri Congresswoman Vicky Hartlzer worked to support the ban on same-sex marriage that was added to Missouri’s constitution in 2004. She issued a statement saying, “I am disappointed in the Court’s decision to stifle the voices of Missouri’s voters. Decisions on marriage policy should be left in the hands of the 50 states, allowing those who wish to define marriage as being between one man and one woman, as we did in Missouri, to do so. Today’s ruling tramples on the voice of the people. I will continue to champion marriage as the union between one man and one woman so every child has the opportunity to have both a mom and a dad.”


Gov. Nixon speaks against EPA proposal to lower ethanol mandate

Governor Jay Nixon (D) has joined other governors and those with ties to the ethanol industry in Kansas, to speaking out against a federal proposal to reduce the country’s ethanol mandate.

Governor Jay Nixon (D)

Governor Jay Nixon (D)

The Environmental Protection Agency wants to reduce that mandate for this year and next. Governor Nixon says the government shouldn’t back off of those goals.

“Right now with the price of corn you’re seeing ethanol bring down the price of gasoline, and consumers should be well aware of that and not be fooled by big oil’s attempt to keep prices up high so they can make profits,” said Nixon.

Nixon says what he and others are asking EPA to do is to follow the law.

“Meet those targets,” said Nixon. “We can produce the corn, we can produce the ethanol, and farmers and private sector folks will make the investments, and with the help of USDA which just this week announced some additional dollars, EPA just needs to follow the law.”

Nixon and others spoke at the forum in Kansas against reducing the mandate.

“It’s a good time for everybody to just take a jump-stop here and look back to 2003, 2004 when we had gas prices going up and we had foreign countries dictating to us how much we were paying at the pump. We were forced to have gas prices way too high,” said Nixon. “One of the significant reasons we’ve been able to bring those prices down is that our farmers and our ethanol industry and our biodiesel industry, our biofuels industry, has stepped up. Now is not the time to step away from that commitment.”

Federal law does give EPA power to revise amounts, and the agency says the current mandates can’t be met due to lesser-than-expected production of ethanol from agricultural waste, and use of gasoline.

Missouri Republicans and Democrats respond to Supreme Court ruling on federal health care law

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the Affordable Care Act authorized federal tax credits for eligible Americans in both states with their own exchanges, but also in Missouri and 33 other states using federal exchanges.

U.S. Supreme Court (courtesy; Wikimedia commons)

U.S. Supreme Court (courtesy; Wikimedia commons)

The ruling is a win for President Barack Obama over challengers who argued the federal government should not be able to give subsidies to individuals in states that lacked their own exchange. Such a ruling could have removed subsidies from an estimated 6.4-million Americans unless Congress or those 34 states’ legislatures acted.

Missouri Democrats are praising the ruling, and called on the Missouri legislature to accept federal money to expand Medicaid eligibility under the Act.

St. Louis Congressman William Lacy Clay (D) said in a statement, “I am very gratified that the high court has upheld this essential funding mechanism for the Affordable Care Act, landmark legislation which I helped shape, that is now working well for over 16 million Americans. The ACA is now the settled law of the land. And the endless, politically motivated attempts to weaken or overturn it must end.”

Clay added, “Now is the time to fully implement the law, especially in states like Missouri where the state legislature continues to throw away $5.4 million a day in federal funds that taxpayers have already sent to Washington by refusing to expand Medicaid under the ACA. The time for political posturing and empty excuses is over. They must act without delay to allow their most vulnerable constituents to receive affordable healthcare coverage, just like they do.”

Governor Jay Nixon (D) echoed Clay’s sentiments.

“Today’s ruling is good news for hundreds of thousands of working Missourians who will continue to have access to affordable health coverage through the federal exchange,” said Nixon. “However, it is important to note that there are hundreds of thousands more Missourians who continue to be denied access to affordable health care due to the Missouri legislature’s inaction on Medicaid.

“Today’s ruling by the Roberts Court to uphold the Affordable Care Act a second time removes all doubt that the ACA is and will remain the law of the land. There are no more excuses for continuing to send our tax dollars to other states and denying 300,000 working Missourians the opportunity to access affordable health care coverage through Medicaid expansion. I look forward to working with the General Assembly next session to finally bring our tax dollars home and provide affordable health coverage to hundreds of thousands of hard-working Missourians through Medicaid expansion.”

Senator Claire McCaskill (D) said on Twitter, “Supreme Court decision on healthcare law=common sense. Time for Rs to stop the bashing and start working w/us to make it better.’

Attorney General Chris Koster, Missouri’s lone Democratic candidate for governor in 2016, said in a statement, “Republicans and Democrats both agree that America’s health care system has long needed to change. For too long, those with insurance have had to pay more to offset the cost of care for those without insurance. This had a negative economic impact for consumers and the economy as a whole.

“The Affordable Care Act has succeeded at adding hundreds of thousands of Missourians to the rolls of the insured, and continues to reduce costs. But its effect on Missouri’s economy could be even more beneficial. Studies have estimated it could create up to 24,000 jobs in our state and generate billions in labor income. This is why Republicans like Kit Bond and business groups like the Chamber of Commerce support Medicaid expansion.

“Today’s ruling was a positive step forward. The subsidies are an important part of building our health care infrastructure and providing affordable care to low- and middle-income families. I hope our state legislature will now see the economic value in Medicaid expansion and bring Missouri’s tax dollars back to our state.”

Missouri Republicans, on the other hand, expressed disappointment in the ruling, and vowed to continue fighting the healthcare reform law.

U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (R) said in a statement, “For more than five years, I’ve heard from countless Missouri workers, seniors, and families who are facing higher costs and fewer choices due to the president’s health care takeover. And Missourians recently learned more bad news when the Obama Administration announced premium rate increases for our state in 2016 of up to 34 percent.

“This law has been one false promise after another. First, the president promised people if they liked their health care, they could keep it. He insisted that not having coverage would result in a penalty, not a tax, and he promised affordable health care to millions of Americans who now find they cannot afford it.

“While I’m disappointed that the Court didn’t ultimately accept what the law actually said, I’ll keep fighting to protect Missourians from the president’s flawed health care plan and replace it with a patient-centered system that lowers costs, increases choices, and provides greater access to quality care.”

Northern Missouri Congressman Sam Graves wrote, “I strongly disagree with today’s ruling, but it does not change my resolve to fully repeal Obamacare. The president’s health care law has led to higher costs, fewer jobs, and tremendous uncertainty for families and small businesses.”

Graves continued, “What’s worse, Obamacare takes healthcare decisions out of the hands of patients and doctors and leaves them up to bureaucrats in Washington. Regardless of the outcome of this ruling, I will continue working to replace Obamacare with patient-centered, free market reforms that protect Americans from this harmful law.”

East-central Missouri Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer wrote, “Today the Supreme Court upheld Obamacare in the case of King v. Burwell. While I had hoped for a different outcome, this does not mean that I will give up the fight to chip away at the costly and job killing components of the president’s failed health-care law. I will continue to listen to the people of the 3rd District and work with my colleagues to repeal the most onerous pieces of Obamacare and am also looking ahead towards a future where real solutions can be made – solutions that focus on freedom, empowerment, flexibility, and putting doctors and patients back in charge of health-care.”

West-central Missouri Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler wrote, “Obamacare has been a disaster since its inception. This ruling does nothing to help the American people get out from underneath the clutch of an onerous federal mandate and bolsters a bad law, making it more difficult for Congress to work towards real, patient-centered reform to our broken health care system. Moreover, it sets an extremely dangerous precedent that the executive can unilaterally alter laws – a job constitutionally delegated to the elected representatives in Congress. I am extremely disappointed the Supreme Court failed to rebuke President Obama’s continued executive overreach of legislating from the Oval Office.”