October 3, 2014 at 4:40 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
Judge orders Missouri to recognize same-sex marriages

A state judge in Missouri has ruled against the state's ban on recognizing same-sex marriage.

A state judge in Missouri has ruled against the state’s ban on recognizing same-sex marriage.

A state judge in Missouri struck down on Friday the state’s laws prohibiting recognition of same-sex marriages performed out-of-state, making for another victory for supporters of marriage equality in judicial system.

In a 20-page decision, Judge J. Dale Youngs of the 16th Circuit Court of Jackson County declares Missouri’s ban on recognizing same-sex marriage violates plaintiff same-sex couples’ constitutional right to equal protection.

“Under the Constitutions of the United States and State of Missouri, must defendants recognize out-of-state marriages between same-sex couples that are legal in the jurisdiction in which they were contracted — just as it recognizes all other similarly valid out-of-state marriages?” Youngs writes. “The answer is yes.”

Although plaintiffs assert Missouri’s ban on marriage recognition violates their right to due process, in addition to their right to equal protection, Youngs writes he need only find the law violates equal protection rights to rule against the law.

In anticipation that the ruling will be taken up by the Missouri Supreme Court, Youngs writes the district court believes “it is unnecessary to go further than it has, and accordingly declines to address that question here.”

The lawsuit, Barrier v. Vasterling was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri, on behalf of 10 same-sex couples seeking to have their out-of-state same-sex marriage recognized under state law.

Youngs devotes a considerable portion of his ruling to explain that the only reason the state won’t recognize the out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples is singularly because the couples are of the same-sex.

“Plaintiffs are, without dispute, loving and committed couples who presented themselves at a recorder’s office, or its equivalent, in a jurisdiction where it is legal for same-sex partners to marry,” Youngs writes. “They are, therefore, legally married — both in the jurisdictions in which their marriages were contracted, and in other jurisdictions which recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages pursuant to the doctrine of lex loci contractus. Missouri follows the same doctrine and recognizes marriages deemed lawful in other states — for everyone except same-sex couples.”

No explicit stay is included in the decision. It wasn’t immediately clear whether that means the marriages of same-sex couples must be recognized at once in Missouri, or if more action is needed for that to happen.

It also remains to be seen whether state officials will appeal the decision. Eric Slusher, a spokesperson for Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, said the state is “reviewing the judge’s ruling.”

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, a supporter of marriage equality, has already determined the same-sex couples who wed of out-of-state would be treated the same as different sex-couples for the purposes of state income tax filings, although that view was challenged by his Republican opponents.

The constitutional ban prohibiting recognition of same-sex marriages in Missouri was approved at the ballot in 2004, when it passed by 71 percent of the vote.

Marc Solomon, national campaign director of the LGBT group Freedom to Marry and a Kansas City native, praised the ruling, but said it’s time for the U.S. Supreme Court to make a final decision on the marriage issue.

“Couples in America should not have to play ‘now you’re married now you’re not’ as they travel, work, or move across state lines,” Solomon said. “Judge Youngs’s ruling powerfully affirms that principle. Yet the only way we’ll achieve national resolution on the freedom to marry is for the Supreme Court to take up a marriage case, bring an end to the unsustainable patchwork of marriage laws across the country, and affirm the freedom to marry for all.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

  • Being left-handed … black or being gay is just as natural. It is a sometimes rare occurrence to fall in Love and to hold that person in your heart and be loved in return … it is something that should be celebrated! If it’s between two guys or two girls — all the better. It takes even more courage to defend that LOVE!

  • One can only admire the plaintiffs and congratulate the attorneys in this case, at the same time, shake their heads in pity for this case to even have had to be brought up. However, progress is made inch by inch, step by step. We, the champions, can handle that… quite well!

  • I was surprised that Judge Youngs did not invoke Article IV of the U.S. Constitution in ordering Missouri to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.

    The full text of Article IV of the Constitution reads as follows:

    Section 1: "Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State. And the Congress may by general Laws prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records and Proceedings shall be proved, and the Effect thereof."

    Section 2: "The Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several States."

    It is because of Article IV of the Constitution that your driver's license is recognized as valid by all 50 states. Likewise, your marriage license must be recognized as valid by all 50 states. No state can refuse recognition of a legally valid marriage granted by another state solely because the married couple is of the same sex. Despite voting to amend the Missouri state Constitution to restrict recognition of marriages to opposite-sex couples, neither the voters of Missouri nor the voters of any other state can trump the U.S. Constitution.

  • Section Two of the "Defense of Marriage" Act explicitly overrules the Full faith and Credit clause. It reads:

    "Powers reserved to the states
    No State, territory, or possession of the United States, or Indian tribe, shall be required to give effect to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other State, territory, possession, or tribe respecting a relationship between persons of the same sex that is treated as a marriage under the laws of such other State, territory, possession, or tribe, or a right or claim arising from such relationship."

    In reversing Section 3 of the act a year ago last June, the Supreme Court left Section 2 standing. That is why Judge Young did not (could not) invoke Article IV.

  • UPDATE: Missouri Attorney-General Chris Koster has said he will NOT appeal this decision! Unless there's something else I don't understand, I think that means that the State of Missouri must recognize all same-sex marriages contracted in other states or countries where they are legal.

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