JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Sen. Ed Emery, R-Lamar, introduced legislation last week just prior to the deadline which would provide that the state shall not enforce a marriage other than a marriage between a man and a woman. Any employee who honors same-sex marriages or issues marriage licenses to same-sex couples will be subject to termination.
Emery told The Missouri Times that he filed the bill because he views the initiative that Department of Revenue and local government employees are taking to issue and honor marriage licenses as an assault on traditional marriage and the Missouri Constitution. Last summer, the City of St. Louis deliberately issued four marriage licenses to same-sex couples in violation of state law in an effort to trigger a lawsuit.
“We need to be a government of laws, not a government of men,” Emery said. “The laws that Missouri has adopted need to be enforced. They’re ignoring laws and I do not think that is correct.”
Emery said the Constitution is very clear, referring to a Constitutional amendment approved by Missourians in 2004 with 71% of the vote that prohibits same-sex marriage. The measure was approved by every county in the state except for the City of St. Louis. The amendment says “That to be valid and recognized in this state, a marriage shall exist only between a man and a woman.”
Under Emery’s bill, any employee who licenses or offers government support for a non-traditional marriage would lose their salary, be terminated, and lose their retirement.
Progressively liberal activist group, Progress Missouri, said that SB 555 specifically targets local officials by threatening their employment for issuing same-sex marriage licenses or supporting same-sex marriage. Employees could even lose their retirement security if they recognize legal marriages, under Emery’s proposal, Progress Missouri communicated via email.
“Sen. Emery is standing on the wrong side of history. SB 555 is a shameful and desperate attempt to halt the undeniable momentum behind marriage equality in Missouri. No Missourian should face the threat of being fired for supporting same-sex marriage,” said Pamela Merritt, Communications Director for Progress Missouri.
Following back-to-back state and federal court decisions declaring Missouri’s 2004 ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, same-sex marriage licenses are currently being issued in St. Louis City, St. Louis County and Jackson County. A Jackson County decision in Oct. 2014 recognized same-sex marriages performed in other states.
The bill has not been assigned to a committee yet.
Rachael Herndon was the editor at The Missouri Times and also produced This Week in Missouri Politics, published Missouri Times Magazine, and co-hosted the #MoLeg podcast. She joined The Missouri Times in 2014, returning to political reporting after working as a campaign and legislative staffer.
Rachael studied at the University of Missouri – Columbia. She lives in Jefferson City with her husband, Brandon, and their two children.