Judge hears arguments about Missouri's same-sex marriage ban - KCTV5 News

Judge hears arguments about Missouri's same-sex marriage ban

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Couples challenging Missouri's refusal to recognize same-sex marriages legally performed in other states say there is no public interest in denying them the same rights as married heterosexuals.

American Civil Liberties Union attorney Anthony Rothert told a Jackson County judge on Thursday that refusal to honor same-sex marriages amounts to state-sanctioned discrimination.

But Assistant Attorney General Jeremiah Morgan said Missouri voters approved a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage by a large margin in 2004, and that the U.S. Supreme Court has said states have the right to define marriage.

Ten couples who were legally married elsewhere are suing top state officials and the city of Kansas City for violating their due process and equal protection rights.

Gov. Jay Nixon and Attorney General Chris Koster have also been named in the lawsuit, which alleges the couple's due process and equal protection rights under the U.S. Constitution have been violated.

A Kansas City judge is hearing arguments in a Jackson County lawsuit challenging Missouri's rejection of same-sex marriages that have been performed in other states.

The plaintiffs say Missouri recognizes different-sex marriages performed elsewhere and that under a 2013 Supreme Court ruling it is obligated to treat same-sex marriages the same way. They are seeking a permanent injunction requiring the state to recognize all same-sex marriages performed in other states.

Randy Short is a senior manager for the city of Kansas City. He and his husband Eric Goodman-Short, who also works for the city, legally married in 2012 in Iowa.

“The city is very open to providing insurance benefits. One of the main problems we have with any benefits we receive is we're not recognized as a married couple,” Short said.

Benefits such as retirement and insurance are at stake.

A Jackson County judge called the city of Kansas City, MO's position in the landmark lawsuit as being in a trick box.

The city of Kansas City has recognized same-sex couples as domestic partners to give them access to benefits that heterosexuals have access to, but the lawsuit still names the city. Though the city grants benefits to couples of all sexual orientation, an attorney for the city told the judge that the Missouri state law against same-sex marriage prevents it from going further.

“The city has no power, according to Missouri constitution, to override either the Missouri constitution or lawfully enact state statutes, including bans on same-sex marriage,” said Tara Kelly, the attorney for Kansas City.

The plaintiffs also argued that Missouri recognizes other types of marriages allowed in other states, but banned locally such as first cousin unions and married prison inmates, and that same-sex marriages should be recognized. The state attorney general's office argued that recognizing gay marriage is a constitutional violation.

“We're talking uniformly about the marriage between a man and a woman. It has never been recognized outside of that context,” said Jeremiah Morgan, the attorney for the attorney general's office.

Short and Goodman-Short say this is a personal fight that has turned very public after Thursday's hearing.

“It hurts me a bit to know that people aren't open minded enough to recognize that love is love no matter what it is and it shouldn't matter who it is,” Short said.

"The one here today is a very simple question. Should these married couples have their marriages recognized?" said Jeffrey Mitt of the ACLU.

Circuit Judge James Dale Young didn't say when he would have a ruling, and whatever he decides will be appealed to higher courts.

The lawsuit is one of at least three legal challenges to Missouri's ban on same-sex marriages.

KCTV5's Bonyen Lee reported this story. KCTV5's Laura McCallister contributed.

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