Eight Missouri couples from across the state have filed suit challenging the constitutionality of Missouri’s laws denying legal recognition of their marriages. The eight couples, some together for more than 30 years, and several raising children, are excluded from most state and some federal protections available to opposite-sex married couples.
“Because of the many benefits of marriage, Missouri has traditionally recognized lawful marriages performed in other states,” said Jeffrey Mittman, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri. “We know that the people of Missouri are fair-minded and did not intend to harm these eight families and others like them throughout Missouri. But our current laws do harm them.”
The plaintiff couples are:
“Our courts and our society have discarded, one by one, marriage laws that violated the Constitution’s mandate of equality, such as anti-miscegenation laws and laws that denied married women legal independence and the right to make decisions for themselves," said Tony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU of Missouri. “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.”
Rothert outlined some of the many protections denied these loving couples and their families, including:
The ACLU was joined at press conferences announcing the litigation in Kansas City, Jefferson City, St. Louis and Springfield, by representatives of PROMO, Missouri’s statewide LGBT organization. A.J. Bockelman, executive director of PROMO stated: “As we approach a full decade since the passage of Missouri's Constitutional Amendment on marriage, we know this has been a decade of hardship on gay and lesbian couples. The tide has turned and we now see state after state taking a supportive position and extending the basic benefits of marriage to our couples. It is past time for Missouri to be on the right side of history and declare Missouri's Amendment unconstitutional."
Updated: Sept. 25, 2014
Attorneys with the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri presented oral arguments before Judge J. Dale Youngs in Division 6, Sixth Floor of the Jackson County Courthouse, 415 E. 12th Street, Kansas City, MO 64106 at 9:30 a.m. CT on Thursday, Sept. 25.
It was a monumental day for the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri. Seven of our 10 courageous plaintiff couples were present at the Jackson County Courthouse when legal director Tony Rothert presented oral arguments in Barrier v. Vasterling, a suit fighting for the recognition of same-sex marriages performed outside of the state of Missouri.
For 30 minutes, Rothert clearly laid out why couples deserve all of the benefits that opposite-sex married couples enjoy. The entire hearing lasted less than an hour and a half.
"It was an honor to give our plaintiffs their day in court," said Rothert. "We were able to highlight the many ways that discrimination against loving, committed couples ends up harming families."
"Missouri has traditionally recognized lawful marriages performed in other states. It is simply wrong to treat same-sex families differently," said Jeffrey A. Mittman, executive director of the ACLU of Missouri. "Thanks to the hard work of the ACLU and our many LGBT partners, we are nearing the day when discrimination against LGBT families will end. The ACLU's historic 2013 Supreme Court decision in the Edie Windsor case paved the way as state after state removed barriers to marriage. Today, Missouri took a giant step down that path."
Judge J. Dale Youngs said he will make a decision as quickly as possible.
Missouri Circuit Judge J. Dale Youngs ordered that the marriages of 10 couples must be recognized by the state of Missouri. His decision came eight days after hearing the oral arguments in Barrier v. Vasterling, Missouri’s landmark case filed in February by the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri on behalf of 10 same-sex Missouri couples.
“Missouri has finally recognized our couples’ marriages as being no different from any other marriage,” said Tony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU of Missouri.
Married plaintiffs Janice Barrier and Sherie Schild said “Our hearts are filled with jubilation. We believe the judge made a fair and just decision recognizing marriage for same-sex couples.”
“This is a personal win for our 10 courageous couples who stepped up to represent the LGBT community,” said Jeffrey A. Mittman, executive director of the ACLU of Missouri. “Even better ― this is a win for the whole state because a discriminatory law has been struck down.”
Attorney General Chris Koster announced that he will not appeal our win in Barrier v. Vasterling, regarding the recognition of marriages of same-sex couples.
"As the Attorney General has recognized, our constitution obligates Missouri to recognize marriages from other states, as our state has historically done. Now more than half of the states will not exclude gay men and lesbians from marriage. We look forward to the day that Missouri will join the majority soon. In the meantime, we are thrilled that Missouri will no longer single out gay men and lesbians for discrimination by refusing to recognize their marriages," said Tony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU of Missouri.