JEFFERSON CITY - Gov. Jay Nixon issued an executive order Thursday allowing same-sex married couples who move to Missouri to jointly file state tax returns.
Just a year ago, Gov. Nixon told KOMU 8 News that he opposed gay marriage, but today he struck a different chord.
"Many Missourians, including myself, are thinking about these issues of equality in new ways and reflecting on what constitutes discrimination," Nixon said. "For me that process has led to the belief that we shouldn't treat folks differently just because of who they are."
Nixon said that under the Missouri State Constitution, gay marriage is still not recognized under law. He said the executive order would not be in violation of that law.
"This is not about the definition of marriage, this is about the structure of our tax code," Nixon said. "The question of whether same-sex marriage should be recognized in Missouri is a separate issue. One that I hope that quite frankly Missouri voters will have another opportunity to visit."
Nixon's order specifically directs the Department of Revenue to accept the jointly-filed state tax returns of all legally married couples.
Nixon explained that the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service ruled in August that legally married same-sex couples would be treated as married for federal tax purposes.
The Governor said the move is essentially the state adjusting to that federal ruling, and said the only way the state would legally begin to recognize same-sex marriage would be after a vote from the people.
The Governor's office said it doesn't have a current estimate on how many Missourians will be effected by the policy change.
Missouri House Speaker Tim Jones sent out a release responding to Nixon's executive order with the following statement:
"Once again, Governor Nixon is trying to play to all sides of every issue, indulging his liberal ideals while hedging his bets by saying the courts have forced his hand. The Governor's job is to defend our state's constitution - including the constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman, that was passed overwhelmingly in this state - not to surrender to the whims of the Obama administration. 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. Furthermore, I would call upon Gov. Nixon to supply the legal opinion from Attorney General Koster providing the justification for the action he took today in ignoring the Constitution of the State of Missouri."