2004 to 2014: The first decade of conflicts:
Constitutional ban on same-sex
Four couples marry in violation of the ban.
The acronym "LGBT" refers to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender/Transsexual community.
Developments from 2004 to 2014-JUN:
2004-AUG-03: Marriage ban: Voters in Missouri approved an amendment to the state constitution to ban marriage by same-sex couples. It is Article 1, Section 3 of the Constitution. It states:
"That to be valid and recognized in this state, a marriage shall exist only between a man and a woman." 1
It was the fifth state to write marriage discrimination against lesbians, gays and bisexuals into their state constitution. The number of states with such constitutional bans eventually grew to more than 30. That number is gradually shrinking as various courts declare the amendments unconstitutional --generally because they violate the Due Process and/or Equal Protection clauses of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Voters in every Missouri county voted in favor of the amendment. Only voters in St. Louis voted against it. 1
The final state-wide vote was 71% in favor of the amendment, and 29% opposed. A common belief at the time was that if a state constitution were amended to ban such marriages, the ban would be more resistant to court challenges than if the ban was merely added to the state marriage statute.
The Coalition to Protect Marriage in Missouri was the driving force behind the amendment. 2 Spokesperson Vicky Hartzlersaid:
" I'm very gratified and encouraged and thankful that the people of this state understand our current policy's a wise public policy and they want to see it protected from a legal challenge." 3
Doug Gray, campaign manager for the Constitution Defense League -- a group promoting marriage equality -- referred to the many other states where similar amendments were planned later in that year when he said:
"We're already reaching out to these other states, sharing with them what we learned, what worked, what didn't work, and we'll move on. Ultimately we're right and they're simply wrong." 3
The Constitution Defense League resisted the amendment, but were simply overwhelmed by public beliefs and animus against the LGBT community.
It took seven years before national polls consistently showed in 2011 that most American adults favored marriage equality.
2013-NOV-14: Governor Jay Nixon (D) issued an executive order concerning income tax filing: The order permitted same-sex couples who had been legally married out-of-state to file a combined state income tax return if they filed their federal return jointly.
Apparently feeling that even one form of government recognition of same-sex relationships was one too many, four religious conservatives filed a lawsuit on 2014-JAN-08 with the Circuit Court of Cole County. Three of the plaintiffs are associated with the Missouri Baptist Convention. The fourth is Joe Ortwerth, executive director of the Missouri Family Policy Council which is associated with the fundamentalist Christian group "Focus on the Family." The lawsuit is titled "Messer v. Nixon." 5
On 2014-MAR-26, the plaintiffs submitted a motion to obtain a temporary restraining order (TRO) that would prevent implementation of the Governor's executive order.
On 2014-APR-04, the request for a TRO was denied. 6
2014-FEB-11: The American Civil Liberties Association of Missouri filed a lawsuit in state court: It is Barrier v. Vasterling. Plaintiffs originally included eight same-sex couples who had been legally married out-of-state. They were later joined by two more couples. They asked that their marriages be recognized in Missouri. Oral arguments were heard on SEP-25. More information.
2014-JUN-25: Almost a decade had passed after the constitutional amendment injected discrimination into the Missouri Constitution when four same-sex couples married in St Louis, MO. The city of St. Louis has been an oasis of relative tolerance towards the LGBT community for many years. Thus, it was not a complete surprise when St. Louis mayor Francis Slay violated the state constitution and married four same-sex couples in his office. He said that same-sex couples should not have to:
"... wait forever for a wave of tolerance to sweep up the Mississippi River.
Noting that the due process and equal protection clauses in the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution requires federal, state, and local governments to treat couples equally, he concluded that the amendment to the state Constitution banning same-sex marriages was unconstitutional. He ordered Sharon Carpenter, the city's recorder of deeds, to issue marriage licenses to a group of four same-sex couples.
Lindsay Toler, writing for Riverfront Times said:
" Sharon Carpenter, recorder of deeds for St. Louis city, asked for legal opinions from Winston Calvert, city counselor, and from Michael Wolff, dean as Saint Louis University Law School. Both lawyers told Carpenter that it's her duty as a public official to uphold the U.S. Constitution over the state's if Missouri's rules are found to be discriminatory." 7
"As state court after state court has deemed barring couples to marry under the law unconstitutional, it is time to make a stand. It is time to show that the people of St. Louis support equality and will fight for it. This is not a decision I have made lightly, but it is a right that must be defended. St. Louis stands with those who stand for love."
Mayor Slay said:
"Make no mistake about it, I, and all of us standing here, are doing this to force the issue and to get the law settled for everyone who wants to get married in the state of Missouri. If we weren't doing this, no other city in Missouri would." 7