Decision Expected Soon in Missouri Same-Sex Marriage Case
Oral arguments were heard Thursday morning at the Jackson County Courthouse in a historic lawsuit filed by the ACLU on behalf of 10 Missouri same-sex couples who were legally married elsewhere.
Attorney Tony Rothert of the ACLU presented the plaintiff’s argument. Seven of the 10 couples in the lawsuit attended, including Kansas Citians Jim MacDonald and Andy Schuerman, with their young daughter.
Rothert said the suit was being filed for the same reason as many other states have done after the historic 2013 United States v. Windsor case ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional and that federal protections for legally married same-sex couples cannot be denied.
Kansas City was represented by its own assistant city attorney, Tara Kelly, who stated that the city feels the law prohibiting same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, but that it doesn’t have the authority to change state law. She also said, “The city believes there is no reason to treat same sex couples as second class citizens.”
Chris Hernandez, director of city communications for Kansas City, issued this statement: “While the City of Kansas City, Missouri, is a defendant in this case, it’s important to recognize that we offer same sex couples as many benefits as we can under existing state law.”
“As a City we value all employees and have created a welcoming workplace that respects all forms of diversity. This inclusiveness is a matter of both policy and law, given that sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as marital status, are protected under the City’s anti-discrimination laws. In addition, members of the LGBT community are at all levels of the city, including high-ranking positions in the Mayor’s Office and the City Manager’s Office.”
Hernandez added that the city has offered domestic partner benefits and a domestic partner registry for the public since 2004. Kansas City scored a perfect 100 points on the recent Municipal Equality Index, which the Human Rights Campaign uses to recognize LGBT inclusiveness. And, Hernandez said, Mayor Sly James has appointed LGBT members to at least 14 different boards and commissions.
Judge J. Dale Youngs asked the defending attorney for the state of Missouri how singling out same-sex marriages performed in other states for non-recognition in Missouri can be upheld when the state allows legal marriages from other states in instances of marriage between first cousins, underage couples or common law marriages.
Youngs asked whether the city’s domestic partner rule requires same-sex married couples to lie in order to be registered as domestic partners who are not married. The lawyer for the city said they are looking to revise the language to include same-sex spouses.
After the hearing, MacDonald said of himself and his husband, Schuerman, “We’re excited. We think that our lawyer made a tremendous argument before the judge. We were pleased to see that the state’s argument was as weak as it was. We are encouraged by the judge’s statement to make a decision as quickly as possible. We are riding pretty high from the experience today.”
A.J. Bockelman, executive director of PROMO, Missouri’s statewide LGBT rights group, tweeted: “Good likelihood we have a decision by Tuesday at latest. Could come today #ShowMeMarriage”
Nineteen states and the District of Columbia now allow same-sex marriages.