KANSAS CITY, MO – Jackson County will expend no taxpayer dollars to mount a defense against a lawsuit the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of St. Louis filed Wednesday, June 25 against the county’s Recorder of Deeds Department on the behalf of “same-sex couples who seek the freedom to marry in Missouri.” The legal petition, which the ACLU filed in the 16th Circuit Court of Jackson County, contests “the validity, under the United States Constitution, of Missouri’s laws that bar marriage between two people of the same sex.”
“This lawsuit is a direct challenge to the State of Missouri’s ban against same-sex marriage,” Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders said. “The county has no legal obligation to defend what is a state action prohibiting us, the county, from issuing or recognizing marriage licenses for same-sex couples. Our Recorder of Deeds Department can do neither of those two things without violating state law.”
Missouri banned same-sex marriage in 2004, when voters approved a state constitutional amendment proclaiming “that to be valid and recognized in this state, a marriage shall exist only between a man and a woman.” But since the first of this year, federal judges have issued rulings striking down same-sex marriage bans in Oklahoma, Virginia, Michigan, Texas, Idaho, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Three other states—Kentucky, Tennessee and Indiana—have been ordered to recognize the out-of-state marriage licenses of same-sex couples.
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring chose not to oppose the lawsuit seeking to overturn his state’s same-sex marriage ban, saying, “Marriage is a fundamental right being denied to some Virginians, and the ban unlawfully discriminates on the basis of both sexual orientation and gender.”
Specifically, Herring cited the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibiting discrimination against any group of people.
“We believe the Missouri State Constitutional amendment violates the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as well,” said Sanders.
Also on Wednesday, June 25, the Denver-based U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower-court decision to nullify Utah’s same-sex marriage ban. The federal appeals court ruled, “We hold the 14th Amendment protects the fundamental right to marry, establish a family, raise children, and enjoy the full protection of a state’s marital laws. A state may not deny issuance of a marriage license to two persons, or refuse to recognize their marriage, based solely upon the sex of the persons in the marriage union.”
Marriage affords couples several legal protections, Sanders pointed out, ranging from family leave to care for a sick spouse and applying for public housing to securing inheritances andfiling for joint insurance.
“Most same-sex marriage bans were passed a decade ago,” Sanders said. “The legal challenges so far have led to those bans being overturned. Eventually, the U.S. Supreme Court will have the final say. The ruling the federal appeals court in Denver issued regarding the State of Utah has been stayed, setting the stage for it to move on to the Supreme Court.”