A Kansas City judge has ruled that Missouri must recognize same-sex marriages from other states in the same way the state recognizes other out-of-state marriages. His ruling says that sections of Missouri statute and the constitutional amendment adopted by voters in 2004 that would prevent such recognition are “invalid.”
10 same-sex couples married in states in which that is legal sued the state of Missouri and Kansas City to have their marriages recognized as valid.
More than 70 percent of Missouri voters who cast ballots in August, 2004, favored changing the state Constitution to say, “To be valid and recognized in this state a marriage shall exist only between a man and a woman.” Missouri statutes regarding the issuance of marriage licenses and the state retirement system have been changed to include similar language since 1996.
Judge J. Dale Youngs found that Missouri recognizes marriages that are performed in other states in all cases except for same-sex couples. That includes recognizing the out-of-state marriages of first cousins, even though first cousins are not allowed to marry in Missouri.
“Thus, Missouri has made the choice to regulate and in some cases, prohibit outright, the ability of certain couples to get married here,” writes Youngs. “By singling out plaintiffs’ marriages for different treatment, the State defendants are singling out plaintiffs themselves and are doing so because of a characteristic that distinguishes them from other people: their sexual orientation.”
As to the state’s argument that having a definition of marriage that is recognized statewide to the benefit of local authorities who issue marriage licenses, Youngs says he agrees.
He writes that while that, “may be a legitimate governmental interest, there is no logical relationship between that interest and laws that discriminate against gay men and lesbians who have been married in jurisdictions in which same-sex marriages are legal.”
Youngs adds, “There is no evidence before the Court that treating same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions differently assists or otherwise has any impact on the ability of ‘local authorities’ to do their jobs ‘consistently, uniformly, or predictably.'”
The American Civil Liberties Union, whose attorneys argued the case of those 10 couples, praised the decision.
“Missouri has finally recognized our couples’ marriages as being no different from any other marriage,” said ACLU of Missouri legal director Tony Rothert, who argued the case 8 days ago.
ACLU of Missouri Executive Director Jeffrey A. Mittman called the decision, “a win for the whole state because a discriminatory law has been struck down.”
The decision is expected to be the subject of an appeal, as Judge Youngs noted after hearing arguments last week.
See our story from last week: Judge will rule quickly on challenge to Missouri same-sex marriage ban