Marital rights are slowly changing for Missouri same sex couples

On behalf of Stange Law Firm, PC posted in Family Law on Thursday, February 5, 2015.

For ten years now, the state of Missouri has had a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, which is still in effect. However, there have been several recent court rulings that have arguably been positive developments for same-sex couples.

First, in October, a judge ruled that Missouri must legally recognize same-sex marriages that were legally entered in other states. Soon after, a St. Louis court ruled that Missouri same-sex couples are entitled to receive marriage licenses. The Attorney General has appealed that ruling and the case is now pending in the Missouri Supreme Court.

In a separate case, a federal judge in Kansas City ruled in favor of same-sex marriage, but stayed that ruling pending further federal appeals.

While those cases have gained widespread attention, another case involving the question of same-sex divorce rights in the state was actually the first such case to be heard before the Missouri Supreme Court.

In recent oral arguments, lawyers for the petitioner argued that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage should be abolished because it violates equal protection rights.

The couple in question are two Missouri men who married in Iowa in Dec. 2012. The couple separated after nine months, and a divorce petition was filed in St. Louis County. The petition was denied by a family court judge because the petitioner and respondent are both male.

The couple is unable to get a divorce in Iowa because that state has a one year residency requirement for granting a divorce. Therefore, the petitioner had to appeal.

The Missouri Supreme Court is expected to make a ruling as to whether courts have the power to grant dissolution of same-sex marriages entered into in other states. The outcome of this case, as well as all of the others mentioned, will certainly be followed closely by couples, equal rights advocates, and family law attorneys.

Hopefully, the supreme court’s opinion will provide some much needed guidance and clarity regarding how lower courts should treat such situations.

Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “Two St. Louis men denied a divorce could change same-sex marriage debate,” Doug Moore, Dec. 13, 2014

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