JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri’s Attorney General and the de-facto Democratic nominee for governor in 2016, Chris Koster, joined the Attorneys General of 16 other states in filing an amicus brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in on appeals stemming from Oklahoma and Colorado challenging the state’s constitutional bans on same-sex marriage.
Since last year’s ruling in the United States v. Windsor, state bans on same-sex marriage have dropped like flies, with courts knocking down the bans as discriminatory and unconstitutional — many in court decisions gleefully citing Justice Antonin Scalia’s Windsor dissent which predicted the trend — with remarkable speed.
Missouri’s own ban on same-sex unions is facing legal challenges as well. In Jackson County, the American Civil Liberties Union is battling the state over its refusal to recognize same-sex marriages from states outside of Missouri where the unions are legal. On the eastern side of the state, St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay sparked a legal battle with the state by directly challenging the ban itself, issuing marriage licenses to several gay couples in downtown St. Louis.
As the state’s attorney general, Koster is tasked with defending the constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman in court. Koster, a former Republican who has publicly stated his support for same sex unions, said he would defend the state’s laws in court despite his personal feelings about them.
In joining with 16 other states, Koster is effectively signaling what legal and political observers have said since the Windsor ruling: that a broad and definitive ruling from the Supreme Court would eventually be handed down to settle the state-level lawsuits over same-sex unions once and for all.
Missouri prohibited same-sex unions in 2004 when the state overwhelmingly passed a constitutional amendment defining marriage as being between one man and one woman. Gov. Jay Nixon caused something of a flap last year when he announced same-sex couples would be allowed to file joint state tax returns.
Nixon told reporters at the time that his own opinions on same-sex couples had shifted since his support of the 2004 amendment.
“If people want to get married, they should be able to get married,” Nixon said at the time.
Fellow Democrats in the state embraced Nixon’s actions while Republicans promptly filed articles of impeachment over the announcement, which gained very little traction in the legislature. While the Supreme Court has made no official announcements, the nation’s highest court is widely expected to take hear a same-sex marriage case when it convenes again next year.
Collin Reischman was the Managing Editor for The Missouri Times, and a graduate of Webster University with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism.