On June 24, the ACLU of Missouri filed a petition in Jackson County on behalf of two couples (Angela Curtis & Shannon McGinty and Kyle Lawson and Evan Dahlgren), who wanted to get married but were denied marriage licenses because of Missouri’s unconstitutional amendment limiting marriage to opposite sex couples. Both couples tried to get marriage licenses in Jackson County.

The petition states that Missouri’s ban on marriages between individuals of the same sex is discriminatory and deprives the plaintiffs and their families of the dignity and status that only marriage can confer. These couples are also ineligible for the numerous legal protections that are available to married couples of the opposite sex, including:

* The reflection of their marital status on their spouse’s death certificate;

* The right to private visits or a shared room in a nursing home;

* Consenting to needed experimental medical treatment for an incapacitated spouse; and

* Being protected if a first-responder is killed in the line of duty.

Furthermore, some of the federal protections for married couples are only offered if a couple’s marriage is legally recognized in the state in which they live. Even if the plaintiffs were to be married in another state where same-sex couples can marry legally, they could not access 13 federal protections as long as they live in Missouri and Missouri’s discriminatory marriage ban is still in effect.

“History has taught us that the vitality of marriage does not depend on maintaining such discriminatory laws. To the contrary, eliminating these unconstitutional restraints on the freedom to marry has enhanced the institution,” said Tony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU of Missouri.

This petition is available on the ACLU of Missouri’s website.

Update on June 30, 2014:

The Jackson County Executive Director announced he will not use taxpayer money to defend the case. 

Update on Nov. 7, 2014:

U.S. District Court Judge Ortrie D. Smith ruled on Nov. 7 that same-sex couples can obtain marriage licenses. This judgment strikes down Missouri’s 2004 constitutional amendment that excluded gay men and lesbians from marriage allowing Missouri to join the 32 states and the District of Columbia that issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The ruling came in Lawson v. Jackson County, a lawsuit filed June 24 by the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri (ACLU of Missouri) on behalf of two couples (Angela Curtis & Shannon McGinty and Kyle Lawson & Evan Dahlgren), who were denied marriage licenses earlier this year.

“Sharing this news will be almost as exciting as when we got engaged,” said Angela Curtis, who has been waiting to marry Shannon McGinty until they could do so in Missouri. “It was important to us to wait for full marriage equality where we could celebrate with all of our family and friends in the state where we live,” explains Shannon McGinty.

“This is a historic day for same-sex couples, who have waited far too long to be able to marry in Missouri,” said Tony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU of Missouri. “It feels great for Missouri to join the mainstream by allowing loving couples to formalize their commitment with marriage.”

“Today’s ruling affirms what the ACLU has always proclaimed—same-sex couples and their families should be treated just like any other loving family,” said Jeffrey Mittman, executive director of the ACLU of Missouri. “Missouri will no longer categorically exclude gay men and lesbians from the institution of marriage—marriage is marriage, regardless of your sexual orientation.”       

Update on December 10, 2014:

The state of Missouri filed an appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. The Honorable Ortrie D. Smith is the judge.

Update on April 29, 2015:

Today the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals decided to delay the hearing on this and other cases involving challenges to the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage until after a U.S. Supreme Court decision on the same issue, which is expected by the end of June. The ACLU is counsel in the Missouri and Nebraska cases, which, along with cases from North Dakota and Arkansas, were scheduled for oral arguments on May 12. The following is a joint statement that was issued by the ACLU of Missouri, the ACLU of Nebraska and the national ACLU:

"Every day that same-sex couples continue to be denied the protections and dignity that come with marriage causes serious harms to families. But after yesterday’s arguments in the marriage cases at the Supreme Court, we are hopeful that very soon all Americans will have the freedom to marry the person they love regardless of their sexual orientation. As the landscape rapidly changes, more and more businesses, faith leaders and policy makers see that the discrimination enshrined in the constitutions of Nebraska and Missouri is contradictory to Midwestern values. Same-sex couples have waited too long for their love to be recognized. The ACLU will continue our efforts to end discrimination faced daily by gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Midwesterners."


Anthony Rothert and Gillian Wilcox

Date filed

January 23, 2017


United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit