Same-sex marriage advocates hopeful in Missouri - KCTV5

Same-sex marriage advocates hopeful in Missouri

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Same-sex marriage advocates said Monday they expect it's just a matter of time before Missouri allows the unions, after the Supreme Court cleared the way for their expansion.

Just hours after the U.S. Supreme Court turned away appeals from five states seeking to prohibit gay marriages, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster signaled that the state is backing away from defending its own same-sexmarriage ban.

A Jackson County judge had ordered the state last week to recognize same-sex marriages legally performed in other states. Conservatives at the time asked Koster to appeal, but he noted in a statement Monday that the high court's action effectively makes gay marriage legal in 30 states. Missouri isn't among them, but Koster said the state is obligated to honor contracts entered into in other states.

"Missouri's future will be one of inclusion," Koster added, "not exclusion."

Top Senate Republicans urged the Democratic attorney general on Monday to appeal the Jackson County ruling, noting that a 2004 voter-approved amendment to the state Constitution allows Missouri to recognize only heterosexual marriages as valid.

"He is simply hiding behind thin legal justifications as he seeks to undermine the will of Missouri voters," Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey said in a statement issued jointly with Majority Leader Ron Richard.

American Civil Liberties Union Attorney Tony Rothert said he also was hoping for expedited action in two pending same-sex marriage cases. One is a federal challenge in Kansas City, and the other is a St. Louis case that focuses on city officials who issued marriage licenses to four same-sex couples to trigger a legal test of the ban.

Koster spokeswoman Nanci Gonder says the office isn't commenting on the two pending cases.

Rothert said he expected Missouri to quickly join the ranks of states that allow same-sex marriage.

"There's no reason why Missouri needs to be the last state to have marriage equality," Rothert said. "It will be better for the state and the people in the state if it is sooner rather than later."

Although the same-sex marriage ban remains in effect in Missouri, Friday's ruling opens the door for same-sex couples who legally wed out of state to sign up for a wide range of benefits now afforded to opposite-sex married couples.

Guy Crouch, a CPA in St. Louis who specializes in same-sex tax issues, said that although Missouri already allows gay and lesbian couples to file joint returns, the patchwork of marriage laws still creates challenges, particularly when clients wed, reside, own property and work in multiple states. He said the Supreme Court action moves the nation closer to simplifying the process and added that the speed of change has been "amazing."

Plaintiffs Arlene Zarembka and Zuleyma Tang-Martinez, a suburban St. Louis couple who married in Canada, rushed Monday morning to a Social Security office in St. Louis, seeking to have the 66-year-old Zarembka receive benefits as the spouse of 69-year-old Tang-Martinez. The Social Security staff couldn't immediately process the request, but the couple was overjoyed upon leaving to learn of the Supreme Court action.

Zarembka broke into song, and the couple went out for a celebratory lunch.

"I am astonished," said Tang-Martinez, who has been harassed for her sexual orientation. "I never thought we would see gay marriage in our lifetime."

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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