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Government, Politics & Issues

Koster Will Not Appeal Ruling Ordering State To Recognize Same-Sex Marriages

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(Updated at 5:45 p.m. with quotes from the ACLU and additional information.)

Attorney General Chris Koster will not appeal a Kansas City judge's ruling that ordered the state of Missouri to recognize the marriage of same-sex couples who wed outside of the state. 

"Our national government is founded upon principles of federalism – a system that empowers Missouri to set policy for itself, but also obligates us to honor contracts entered into in other states," Koster said in a statement.  Missouri's future will be one of inclusion, not exclusion."

On Friday, Judge J. Dale Youngs ruled that Missouri's ban on recognizing legal same-sex marriages violated the state and U.S. constitutions because heterosexual, married couples have their relationship recognized by the state automatically. 

The American Civil Liberties Union represented the 10 couples who sued. Tony Rothert, legal director at the ACLU, said that while it's possible, it's unlikely that someone will step in and fight where Koster wouldn't.

"The decision not to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples is such a diversion from what Missouri has historically done that I think almost everyone recognizes that it cannot be sustained and it's just not fair," he said.

The advocacy group PROMO Missouri said about 5,400 same-sex couples in the state have valid marriage licenses from other states. Its executive director, A.J. Bockelman, said he was aware of couples who chose not to move to Missouri because they were uncertain about the status of their marriage.

Koster's decision not to appeal comes the same day that the U.S. Supreme Court revealed it was not going to consider any cases on same-sex marriage this session. By allowing all the appeals court rulings to stand in five states, the Court opened the door for Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin to begin legally marrying same-sex couples.

The Kansas City judge's ruling for Missouri to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states has no bearing on Missouri's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. It is still against Missouri law for gay couples to web. However, the state's ban is being challenged. 

Most recently, the  city of St. Louis issued four marriage licenses in June to same-sex couples. Attorney General Koster has challenged those licenses. A direct challenge to Missouri's ban on gay marriage has been moved to federal court. There are no hearings currently scheduled in those cases.

The ACLU has also gotten involved in a lawsuit against Gov. Jay Nixon's executive order allowing same-sex couples who were legally married elsewhere to file joint state tax returns if they were filing jointly at the federal level. 

Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann

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