Senate bill would make issuing same-sex marriage licenses illegal

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JEFFERSON CITY - Boone County Recorder Nora Dietzel has issued marriage licenses to straight couples since she was voted into the position in November 2014.

However, a bill in the Missouri Senate would make her lose her job and her retirement benefits if she issued a license to a same-sex couple.

Dietzel said she thinks this idea is "outlandish" and that her job requires her to follow the law, even if it is decided on the state, federal, or judicial level.

"Our personal opinion about same-sex marriage or whether or not that is right or wrong does not enter into it at all," Dietzel said.

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to decide if state bans on same-sex marriage are constitutional this summer. Federal and state courts in Missouri also struck down the state's ban on same-sex marriage late in 2014. Those decisions are still being appealed.

"It certainly puts recorders in a bad position having to choose between doing what they feel their duty is and being attacked at a very personal level," Dietzel said.

The gay rights group PROMO also opposes the bill.

PROMO Senior Field Organizer Kyle Piccola said the bill unfairly targets those issuing licenses.

"I think putting the lives of people, their salaries, their jobs in danger on a personal belief is definitely an extreme way to legislate policy," Piccola said.

Piccola also said public opinion has shifted from when voters passed a state constitutional ban on same sex marriage.

"When that amendment was passed, it was more than 10 years ago, back in 2004," Piccola said. "Since then popular opinion on this issue has shifted greatly."

Ed Emery (R) - Lamar sponsored the bill. He said the bill enforces the Missouri constitution and recorders must abide by state law.

"We need to make a clear statement by the legislature that acknowledges the facts of this relationship versus the politics of it," Emery said.

Emery also said it isn't up to the state or any government employee to define marriage. 

"The state did not create marriage, it did not define marriage, it simply acknowledges marriage by our laws," Emery said.

However, Emery said it is up to the state to determine how the state should discipline those who violate the state law.

"We're going to help you do the right thing," Emery said. "We're going to put a penalty in here that says, if you choose to violate Missouri's statute and Missouri's constitution, then you are violating your oath and are subject to some sort of punishment."

Emery submitted the bill just before the deadline to file bills. The bill has been assigned to committee and has yet to be heard on the Senate floor.