Jackson Co. judge hears arguments in same-sex ban lawsuit

4 years 1 month 2 weeks ago Thursday, September 25 2014 Sep 25, 2014 Thursday, September 25, 2014 12:40:00 PM CDT September 25, 2014 in News
By: The Associated Press and Drew Whiteman, KOMU 8 Digital Producer

KANSAS CITY - The Associated Press reported Thursday couples challenging Missouri's refusal to recognize same-sex marriages legally performed in other states said there is no public interest in denying them the same rights as married heterosexuals.

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) attorney Anthony Rothert told a Jackson County judge on Thursday that refusal to honor same-sex marriages amounts to state-sanctioned discrimination.

Assistant Attorney General Jeremiah Morgan said Missouri voters approved a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage by a large margin in 2004, and that the U.S. Supreme Court has said states have the right to define marriage.

Ten couples who were legally married in other states are suing top state officials and the city of Kansas City for violating their due process and equal protection rights. According to the ACLU of Missouri, seven of the 10 plaintiff couples were present at the Jackson County Courthouse when legal director Tony Rothert presented oral arguments in Barrier v. Vasterling, a suit fighting for the recognition of same-sex marriages performed outside of the state of Missouri. One of the same-sex couples at the courthouse was from mid-Missouri.

"It was an honor to give our plaintiffs their day in court," said Rothert. "We were able to highlight the many ways that discrimination against loving, committed couples ends up harming families."

Executive director of the ACLU of Missouri Jeffrey A. Mittman said, "Missouri has traditionally recognized lawful marriages performed in other states. It is simply wrong to treat same-sex families differently." He added, "Thanks to the hard work of the ACLU and our many LGBT partners, we are nearing the day when discrimination against LGBT families will end. The ACLU's historic 2013 Supreme Court decision in the Edie Windsor case paved the way as state after state removed barriers to marriage. Today, Missouri took a giant step down that path."

Circuit Judge James Dale Young didn't say when he would have a ruling, but according to the ACLU, he said he would make the decision quickly.

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