Note: When I was asked to write this as a piece of content, it was with virtually no instruction. There was no research or guidance presented to me, and this was prior to the Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage throughout the United States. It’s an excellent example of a heavily researched piece of legal content.
Same-Sex Marriage in Missouri
It is important to note that the legal climate surrounding same-sex marriage is unstable and rapidly changing. This information is believed to be accurate as of the time it was written, but given the rapid changes in same-sex marriage legislation, it cannot be guaranteed as accurate. If you have questions about same-sex marriage in Missouri, we advise you to contact a family law attorney for the most current information and advice.
Until very recently, same-sex marriage and civil union was legally prohibited in the state of Missouri. Due to a recent Missouri Supreme Court ruling, same-sex marriage is now legal in certain counties and jurisdictions. However, Attorney General Chris Koster has appealed the decision. If the decision is overturned on appeal, same-sex marriage in Missouri will once again be prohibited.
Getting a Same-Sex Marriage Now
For the moment, same-sex marriage is legal in Missouri, but not all counties have begun issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. St. Louis, St. Louis County, Jackson County, and Kansas City have been reported to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. In other counties and jurisdictions, it’s probably wise to call first to make sure they’re issuing licenses for same-sex marriage.
It remains to be seen whether same-sex marriage in Missouri is here to stay. At the moment, we’re waiting on the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals to answer the Attorney General’s request for an appeal. We never know exactly how an appeals court will rule until they hear the case, but we can look at previous precedent.
Citizens for Equal Protection v. Bruning, 455 F.3d 859 (8th Cir. 2006)
In 2000, Nebraska passed a state Constitutional amendment prohibiting recognition of same-sex marriages and civil unions. The amendment was appealed as unconstitutional, and the U.S. District Court ruled that the amendment was indeed a violation of the U.S. Constitution. On appeal, the 8th Circuit Court reversed the decision, ruling that “laws limiting the state-recognized institution of marriage to heterosexual couples … do not violate the Constitution of the United States.” If the 8th Circuit rules the same way they ruled in their 2006 case, same-sex marriage will be illegal again in Missouri pretty soon.
Hope for Same-Sex Marriage
In 2006, only two states explicitly permitted same-sex marriage. Now, there are 37 states (not including Missouri) that allow same-sex couples to marry. Federal agencies like the IRS and the U.S. Military now recognize same-sex marriage. To put it bluntly, a lot has changed since 2006. Despite the previous ruling, they may make a different decision now than they did back then.
Same-Sex Marriage and Same-Sex Divorce (LINK TO SAME-SEX DIVORCE)
While much of the focus in the marriage equality debate has been about same-sex marriage, a lot of changes have recently occurred in Missouri regarding same-sex divorce. Until the Missouri Supreme Court ruling in November 2014, same-sex couples who were legally married in other states were not considered legally married in Missouri. Since they weren’t legally married, they couldn’t be legally divorced.
Judges in Greene County and Boone County have been reported to grand same-sex divorces, but some judges in St. Louis have been resistant. If the legal status of same-sex marriage is resolved to permit same-sex couples to marry, the legal landscape for same-sex divorce will get considerably less complicated.
When to Marry
If you’re a same-sex couple in Missouri who is ready to get married, you may want to consider doing it sooner rather than later. If the 8th Circuit rules against same-sex marriage, it will again be prohibited in Missouri. However, if you marry during this period and then same-sex marriage is again made illegal, you may find yourself in legal gray area if you decide to divorce later.
What About Civil Unions?
Officially, Missouri has never really recognized the concept of a civil union, either. But in practice, there have been ways for same-sex couples to protect themselves, even when the attitude toward gay marriage was more hostile than it is today.
The concept of a civil union is that many (but not all) of the rights and privileges afforded to married couples can be explicitly granted through contracts. For example, if a couple is legally married and the husband dies without a will, the wife will (usually) inherit the entire estate. So if a same-sex couple wanted to ensure that their partner inherited their estate, they could achieve similar results by creating a will.
In a legally recognized marriage, if the wife is unable to make medical decisions due to incapacity, the husband is usually given the right to make those choices on her behalf. But this same right can be granted through certain Powers of Attorney.
If you are a same-sex couple getting married in Missouri and you do NOT yet have a civil union, it might be a good idea to codify the rights and responsibilities of each partner despite the marriage. If Missouri law changes and same-sex marriage is again prohibited, the civil union should provide at least some protection of your relationship.
If you are a same-sex couple who previously had a civil union and you’re seeking a divorce, it’s wise to consider the documents related to your civil union as well. Some of those documents must be changed manually as they will not be automatically voided by a divorce.