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Illinois' gay residents look forward to legal marriage, impact on Missouri uncertain

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Nov. 5, 2013 - Gay and lesbian couples in Illinois are celebrating after the General Assembly gave final approval Tuesday to same-sex marriage. But next door in Missouri, a constitutional amendment banning such marriages remains firmly in place.

When O'Fallon, Ill., resident Colin Murphy first got the news that state lawmakers had approved same-sex marriage, he texted his husband: “We’re legally married.”

Murphy and Kurt Ross, who tied the knot in Iowa where same-sex marriage has been legal since 2009, were already looking forward to filing their federal income taxes together after part of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was invalidated earlier this year. Now, they’re also excited to see what benefits legal marriage in their home state will bring. They're already sure about one.

The couple’s home is in Ross’ name. When they looked into adding Murphy’s name, they found there would be tax implications because it would be considered a gift. But beginning June 1, 2014, when their marriage is recognized in Illinois, they can add Murphy as an owner with no penalty.

“It definitely will give me security. To have the protections as a spouse means a great deal,” Murphy said.

Murphy, editor of Vital Voice media for the LGBT community, said he and his partner have enjoyed equal rights under the state’s umbrella since Illinois enacted civil unions in 2011. But Murphy’s not sure about all the ways in which Tuesday’s decision making Illinois the 15th state to recognize same-sex marriage will affect their lives.

“I think things will be trickling in as the federal government and the Obama administration figure out how to implement policy for same-sex couples,” Murphy said. “We are the guinea pigs of our generation,” Murphy said.

We're 'going to have to live with it'

Illinois Rep. Dwight Kay, R-Glen Carbon, one of the most vocal opponents of same-sex marriage, spoke out against the bill during Tuesday's session. In an interview with the Beacon, he chided supportive House members for quoting Bible verses during the debate that focused on the concept of justice.

"We weren't talking about justice, necessarily, we were talking about right and wrong," Kay said. "We were talking about the family and what's good, what's good for kids."

With Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn having pledged to sign the bill, Kay sees little recourse. Illinois is "just going to have to live with it," he said.

"The bill was passed within two seconds after it was tabled which means it's going to take a lot of votes to bring it off the table and back for consideration," Kay said. "A lot of people who are strongly opposed to gay marriage will attempt to do things but I think it's probably fruitless at this point."

More likely than a rollback of LGBT marriage rights is the possibility of further expansion, perhaps from a U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

"The bigger question is whether we see something coming out of the federal government and I'm not sure we're not too far away from that," Kay said. "But it's my belief that this is wrong for the nation and it's wrong for the state of Illinois."

Effect in Missouri?

Beginning June 1, Missouri will border two states in which same-sex marriage is legal. But It's not clear how the Illinois ruling might eventually affect Missourians. Right now, it doesn't, unless they decide to take up residence across the river.

In 2004, Missouri voters approved a constitutional amendment banning marriage between two men or two women. At this point, the only way to overturn that decision would be another vote of the people, according to A.J. Bockelman, executive director of PROMO, Missouri's LGBT equality organization.

In an online conversation, Bockelman said he's confident that gay and lesbian Missourians will eventually be able to marry.

"When and how that reality comes to pass for Missouri is yet to be determined, but we are committed to seeing it become a reality," Bockelman wrote.

Jeffrey Mittman, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri, echoed Bockelman's sentiments in a statement.

“It’s time for Missouri to join Illinois and Iowa in treating all families equally. It is our goal to do whatever is necessary to make sure that day comes soon for Missourians,” Mittman said.

But same-sex marriage may never be legal in the Show-Me State, according to Joe Ortwerth, former St. Charles County Executive, now the executive director of the Missouri Family Policy Council, a socially conservative group that advocates for like-minded policies. In an emailed statement to the Beacon's Jo Mannies, Ortwerth wrote that the Illinois vote changes nothing across the river.

"I do not believe what is happening in Illinois will have any impact whatsoever on Missouri, any more than what happened in Iowa did," Ortwerth said. "The people of Missouri and their lawmakers remain solidly in support of the institution of marriage and the traditional family, just as the people of Illinois do outside of Chicago."

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