This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon. - Gov. Jay Nixon announced this afternoon that legally married same-sex couples living in Missouri can file joint returns on their state income taxes.
The executive order allows the Missouri Department of Revenue to accept joint returns from same-sex couples who also file jointly for their federal taxes.
Such couples must hold a marriage license from another state that recognizes unions between two men or two women. A.J. Bockelman, head of PROMO, the state organization for LGBT equality, said it’s his understanding that having a marriage license from Canada or another country would also make a couple eligible.
In August, the IRS ruled that same-sex couples can file jointly on their federal return if they live in Missouri or Illinois and are legally married elsewhere.
Missouri is one of several states with a tax code tied to the IRS, Nixon noted in a statement. Under Missouri law, that means legally married couples who file joint federal returns must also file jointly for their state taxes.
“As a result, accepting the jointly filed state tax returns of all legally married couples who file federal returns is the only appropriate course of action, given Missouri statutes and the ruling by the U.S. Department of the Treasury,” Gov. Nixon said, in the news release.
The order makes Missouri the first state that does not recognize same-sex relationships to accept joint returns from such couples. In 2004, state voters approved a constitutional amendment prohibiting marriage between two men or two women. The governor's news release pointed out that the executive order "applies only to the specific issue of tax filing status and does not in any way authorize or sanction same-sex marriage in Missouri, which the state’s constitution does not recognize."
But Nixon's words in a separate PROMO news release seem to suggest that allowing same-sex couples to file jointly is simply the right thing to do. “We shouldn’t treat people differently from one another,” he said.
PROMO's Bockelman extended kudos to Nixon for his order. “We applaud the governor for giving clarity to same-sex couples and providing guidance on how we complete tax return information in the state of Missouri,” Bockelman said, in the release.
Not everyone is happy with the governor's actions. In a statement, Missouri House Speaker Rep. Tim Jones, R-Eureka, accused Nixon of "trying to play all sides of the issue, indulging liberals while hedging his bets by saying the courts have forced his hand." Jones also charged that Nixon is surrendering to "the whims of the Obama administration," which now supports same-sex marriage, and called on the governor to solicit a legal opinion from the state's attorney general to justify his order.
"This executive order is nothing but an attempt to violate the voters’ will, unlawfully ignoring a constitutional amendment to provide the governor’s liberal allies a policy victory," Jones said.
Nixon’s decision follows last week’s vote by Illinois lawmakers to OK same-sex marriage in that state. It’s not clear if same-sex couples living in Missouri will be allowed to marry in Illinois.