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ACLU And Eight Gay Couples Sue Missouri Over Same-Sex Marriage Ban [Updated]

Categories: LGBT

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Used with permission: Tommy Wu
One of the ACLU's plaintiff couples, LeRoy Fitzwater and Alan Ziegler.
See update below: The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri is suing the state over its decade-old constitutional ban on gay marriage.

Following in the footsteps of overturned same-sex marriage bans in Oklahoma and Utah, the organization filed suit this afternoon in a Kansas City court on behalf of eight Missouri couples. All eight are legally married in other states.

Alan Ziegler, 42, and LeRoy Fitzwater, 43, were married in California in 2008 and moved to St. Louis in November. They are named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

"We moved from California to Missouri knowing that essentially we'd be divorced when we got here," says Ziegler. "When our parents travel from state to state, no one questions their marriage. We want our marriage protected like our parents' marriage."

See also: Mizzou's Michael Sam Comes Out; May Become First Openly Gay Player in NFL

Ziegler and Fitzwater are new to living in a state that doesn't consider them married. They haven't yet undertaken the expensive effort to collect legal documents -- power of attorney, living will and many others -- to prove their relationship exists.

"We shouldn't have to carry the papers with us to prove we are married," says Ziegler. He recalls that just a few weeks before moving to Missouri, his husband had to undergo an emergency appendectomy in California.

California is among the seventeen other states that recognize same-sex marriage.

"I was able to go in with him to the ER, talk with his doctor and Alan through it," he says. "In Missouri I wouldn't be allowed in. I would just be some guy who dropped him off."

Same-sex couples in Missouri have limited recourse if a partner becomes seriously ill or dies. In October, reams of evidence testifying to the relationship between a killed Missouri Highway Patrol trooper and his partner failed to sway the Missouri Supreme Court, which denied death benefits to the trooper's male partner of fifteen years. The reason? They weren't legally married in the state.

See also: Missouri Screws Over LGBT Couples When It Comes To Estate Planning

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Another plaintiff couple, Beth Drouant and Julikka LaChe.

Despite possessing power of attorney and a living will, another plaintiff couple, St. Louis residents Julikka LaChe, 33, and Beth Drouant, 35, are scared of what would happen to them in a medical emergency.

"Even with those safety nets, there's no guarantee," says LaChe, describing the patchwork legal strategy of accumulating legal documentation in lieu of a marriage certificate.

"The rights that come along with being married number in the hundreds," Barbara Gilchrist, director of legal clinics at Saint Louis University Law School, told Daily RFT in November. "It's just not possible to re-create that in an alternative way."

The ACLU's lawsuit comes at a heady time for the LGBT community in Missouri. In his January 21 State of the State address, Governor Jay Nixon called for new measures to protect LGBT individuals from workplace discrimination.

As we reported on Monday, Republican state Representative Nick Marshall has filed to impeach Nixon for allowing gay couples legally married in other states to file joint income taxes.

Before news of the ACLU's lawsuit broke, the most exciting LGBT development this week was doubtlessly former Mizzou defensive end Michael Sam, who came out to the New York Times and ESPN as the first openly gay NFL prospect in the league's history.

Updated 12:20 p.m.: At a press conference this morning, ACLU legal director Tony Rothert clarified that the lawsuit seeks recognition in Missouri for couples legally married in other states -- that is, a win wouldn't immediately open the doors for Missouri to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in the state.

However, Rothert tells Daily RFT that this lawsuit will force the state to defend its constitutional ban in court.

"We really don't know what the state's justification is at this point for maintaining the amendment. Frankly we don't think they have one," he says, citing United States v. Windsor, the landmark 2013 United States Supreme Court decision that ruled restricting the federal definition of "marriage" to apply only to heterosexual unions violated the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.

See also: DOMA Ruling: St. Louis Archdiocese Says God's Definition Of Marriage Can't Be Changed

"This is a progression that's followed in many other states," Rothert adds. He points out that states like New York recognized out-of-state gay marriages before it began issuing marriage certificates to its own citizens, and Illinois and Hawaii enacted civil unions before enacting state-sanctioned marriages.

"This is all happening very quickly," Rothert says. "We look forward to seeing what the state has to say."

Continue for the full text of the lawsuit.



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16 comments
MJS562
MJS562

You can't really sue for blocking an oxymoron. Think about it: Marriage doesn not mean same sex unions. That's the definition. Was it changed? Perhaps. But then again you really can't go around altering definitions. What's next? Can I start referring my dog as a lampshade? 

Where's the lampshade... oh it's in the backyard. What you say? That's a dog? No sir, that is indeed a lampshade, and that's what I'm calling them now! 

Thomas
Thomas

I am an openly gay male, 73 years young.

I welcome the right to marry my new 16 year old male partner. 

He is young , strong, and nubile and we will no longer be under the threat of my arrest for our acts of alleged "sodomy" and the misconception of "statutory rape" on a minor.


A wonderful THANK YOU to the folks at the ACLU from all of our Man/Boy loving members of N.A.M.B.L.A !!!!

Way to go Missouri.

Abby Megginson
Abby Megginson

Good. They should. It's unconstitutional. I hope it enlightens MO

Eric Jacobs
Eric Jacobs

People complaining about this might as well give it up cause it's coming, the Supreme Court ruled the other day that the other 46-47 states that don't recognize gay marriage still have to allow gay couples who were married in other states to file a joint tax return, so legalization of gay marriage isn't far behind

Big Damn Heroes
Big Damn Heroes

Shashi: "fruitcakes"... It's like we're really in 1950!

Chelsea Barks
Chelsea Barks

No, its not. My friends can call me that, but an asshole like you gets to call me Chelsea.

Shashi Hemchand
Shashi Hemchand

If you read the RFT you know that queer is a term of endearment for fruitcakes as they use the word in there articles. Ashely montes

Julie Wilhelm
Julie Wilhelm

Its nice how some people have nothing better to worry about than who's marrying who. I wish my life was so simple.

Carly Pownall
Carly Pownall

Good for them! They pay the same taxes, and shop in the same stores as all the rest of Mo...they should have the same rights! :) #onemizzou

Juel Rogers
Juel Rogers

Maybe they should go to san fran. ;-) I hear they're very gay there ;-)

TammyKlein
TammyKlein

@Thomas  

If you chose to get married in the State of New Hampshire, and your partner/child has parental permission, then you can choose an even younger lover to marry.

14 year old boys (13 year old girls) can be legally married in NH.

Simply bring your new found "catch" to Missouri when we get our Gay Marriage Laws changed by the ACLU.

If you are by any chance HIV Pos, no problem . Our President Obama has made your insured treatment always payable !

{Don't forget the pre-nuptial in case the child changes his mind latter. Kids are so cute, but fickle! Would be shame if you couldn't exercise your new rights to marry and divorce as much as you want...or can afford).

javataur
javataur

I'm surprised they didn't already bring up the legal discrepancy caused by our taxes being linked to the IRS. Because the IRS allows married gay couples to file jointly, MO is forced to do the same. I don't understand how that works, but effectively for tax purposes you're married, for all other purposes you're not. Some how i can't see that being legal.

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