On February 12, 2014 the ACLU of Missouri filed litigation in State Court in Kansas City, on behalf of same-sex couples throughout the state to seek recognition by Missouri of their marriages. In 2004, Constitutional Amendment 2, prohibiting same-sex marriages in Missouri, was voted on by the public and passed.
Eight Missouri couples from across the state have filed suit challenging the constitutionality of Constitutional Amendment 2. The couples are excluded from most state and many federal protections available to legally married couples in Missouri.
“Through recognition of marriage, Missouri supports a couple’s decision to establish a family, support one another and any children of the marriage. Because of the many benefits of marriage, Missouri has traditionally recognized lawful marriages performed in other states,” said Jeffrey Mittman, Executive Director of the ACLU of Missouri. “We know that the people of Missouri are fair-minded and did not intend to harm these families, their children, and the other families like them throughout Missouri. But our current laws DO harm them.”
The Plaintiff couples are:
· Janice Barrier and Sheri Schild - married in 2009, and together for more than 30 years;
· Lisa Layton-Brinker and JoDe Layton-Brinker - married in 2010, together for six years, their family includes three children, ages 17, 20, and 21;
· Zuleyma Tang-Martinez and Arlene Zarembka - recently celebrated their thirty-first anniversary as a couple, and were married in 2008;
· James MacDonald and Andrew Schuerman - together for twelve years, married in 2005, and raising their two-year-old daughter;
· Elizabeth Drouant and Julikka LaChe - married in 2010, and together for ten years;
· Ashley Quinn and Katherine Quinn - together for eight years and married in 2010;
· Adria Webb and Patricia Webb - married in 2010 and are raising two children, aged 12 and 13; and
· Alan Ziegler and LeRoy Fitzwater - have been a couple since 2001, and were married in 2008.
“Our courts and our society have discarded, one by one, marriage laws that violated the Constitution’s mandate of equality, such as anti-miscegenation laws and laws that denied married women legal independence and the right to make decisions for themselves,” said Tony Rothert, Legal Director of the ACLU of Missouri. “History has taught us that the vitality of marriage does not depend on maintaining such discriminatory laws. To the contrary, eliminating these unconstitutional restraints on the freedom to marry has enhanced the institution.”
ACLU points out a few of the many protections denied to these couples and their families, including:
· The right to private visits or a shared room in a nursing home;
· Consenting to needed experimental medical treatment for an incapacitated spouse;
· Not being required to testify against a spouse in state court; and
· Being protected if a first-responder is killed in the line of duty.
Representatives of PROMO, Missouri’s statewide lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) organization, joined the ACLU at press conferences in Kansas City, Jefferson City, St. Louis, and Springfield, announcing the litigation on February 12, 2014.
A.J. Bockelman, Executive Director of PROMO stated: “As we approach a full decade since the passage of Missouri's Constitutional Amendment on marriage, we know this has been a decade of hardship on gay and lesbian couples. The tide has turned, and we now see state after state taking a supportive position and extending the basic benefits of marriage to our couples. It is past time for Missouri to be on the right side of history and declare Missouri's Amendment unconstitutional."
Attorneys for the Plaintiffs are Anthony Rothert and Grant Doty, of the ACLU of Missouri Foundation; and Josh Block, with the national ACLU, and its LGBT and AIDS Project.