Same-sex couples struggle for marriage recognition
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Same-sex couples struggle for marriage recognition

Date: February 12, 2014
By: Shannon O'Brien
State Capitol Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri filed a lawsuit challenging Missouri's voter approved ban on recognizing same-sex marriage.  

In 2004, Missouri passed a constitutional amendment to ban the recognition of same-sex marriage. Missouri voters overwhelmingly approved the ban with 70 percent of the vote.

The ACLU said the current Missouri law is unconstitutional. The suit was filed in Kansas City.

At a state Capitol news conference, one same-sex couple announced the lawsuit.

Lisa and JoDe Layton-Brinker have been together for six years and got married in Des Moines, Iowa in 2010. JoDe has three children and said Lisa has done nothing but be an amazing parent to the kids.

"My children would tell you that she's a better parent than the biological dad," said JoDe.

Mike Hoy, Executive Director of the Missouri Catholic Conference, said the Catholic church believes no one should be discriminated against. But, he said the church still believes marriage is only between a man and a woman, so it is not seen as discrimination.

He said there are other options to ensure same-sex couples have the necessary protections they need to live their lives in Missouri, while still keeping the traditional definition of marriage.

"I think there are ways to do that if people are willing to talk to each other and dialog," said Hoy.  "And we’re certainly willing to do that."

JoDe said the lack of protections have affected her.

"The unfortunate side is we had to go and we had to have all this extra documentation, you know, just to cover ourselves and get access to certain things," JoDe said. "We won't ever -- when it comes it will be a blessed day put it that way."

Grant Doty, Staff Attorney at the ACLU of Missouri, said the constitutional provision violates two elements of the U.S. Constitution.

First, the fundamental right to marry guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment in the Due Process Clause. Second, he said it violates the Equal Protection Clause also in the Fourteenth Amendment.

"We believe those are sufficient reasons for the courts here in Missouri to overturn and rule that those parts of the law that prevent JoDe and Lisa's marriage from being recognized would be ruled unconstitutional," said Doty.

Matt Wills, Director of Communications for the Missouri Republican Party, said the Missouri Constitution is very clear and it simply does not recognize same-sex marriage.

"The people of Missouri addressed this in 2004 and the efforts to have judges override the opinion of voters is not only arrogant, but it's a waste of resources on a state level," said Wills.

Mike Whitehead is a Kansas City trial lawyer who filed suit in January challenging Gov. Jay Nixon's executive order. The order allows joint income tax returns by legally married gay couples who filed joint federal returns.

Earlier this month eight House representatives filed articles of impeachment against Gov. Nixon because of the executive order.

"Such public policy should come from free political discourse and choices by the voters, not by force of judicial activism," Whitehead said about his suit. 

Whitehead said he thinks it is interesting the ACLU is taking a gradual approach of striking down the marriage amendment.  

"The next bite will be larger, and may try to consume the whole amendment, forcing Missouri to recognize all same sex marriages and to permit them in this state," said Whitehead.   
Currently, 17 states allow gay marriage.