Lawsuit Filed Seeking Recognition for Same-Sex Marriages

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JEFFERSON CITY - A major development in the future of gay marriages happened in Missouri on Wednesday.

The Missouri chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, or ACLU, announced its filing a lawsuit against the state Wednesday morning. The lawsuit, filed Tuesday night, comes after gay Missouri couples are seeking marriage recognition.

Local residents JoDe and Lisa Layton-Brinker were married in Iowa, but now call mid-Missouri home. The married couple said the current law harms their family by denying them equal rights to benefits.

As an emergency first-responder, Lisa says she worries her family would not be cared for if she is seriously injured at work.

"I had a little episode at work and I fainted and ended up in the ER and we had to make sure we brought our paperwork to the hospital so they could have on file that we were married," said Lisa Layton-Brinker. "So we would be allowed visitation and not kicked out of the hospital rooms."

Since Missouri refuses to recognize same sex marriages, benefits would not be available to surviving spouses of same-sex first-responders who are injured or killed in the line-of-duty.

Same-sex couples are also denied rights to visit or share rooms in a nursing home, consent to experimental medical treatment for an incapacitated spouse and reflection of their marital status on the spouse's death certificate.

They and seven other couples filed lawsuits to challenge the constitutionality of Missouri's laws denying them equal recognition of their marriages.

"We're here and we are just going to wait it out, because to us, it really doesn't matter now," said same sex spouse JoDe Layton-Brinker. "We are married. We obviously want to see progression within the state, but at this point it is just hurry up and wait."

Missouri was the first state to enact a constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage in 2004, but gay rights advocate A.J. Bockelman thinks 2014 might be the right time.

"That's the same environment we are seeing around the state and around the country and that's a dynamic that is dramatically shifting and that speaks to the cultural shift we have seen since a decade ago," said Bockelman.

Bockelman also said the timing of the lawsuit has nothing to do with Missouri defensive end Michael Sam's recent coming out.  Sam revealed on Sunday, he is gay. Sam made the announcement in a report by ESPN's "Outside the Lines."

The ACLU held news conferences in other Missouri cities including Kansas City, Springfield and St. Louis.