Friday, March 28, 2014

Developments In Missouri and Michigan On Same-Sex Marriage Recognition

Here is an update on the rapidly moving developments in two states relating to recognition of same-sex marriages.

In Missouri, where a suit seeking to require the state to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere is pending, last November the governor in Executive Order 13-14 directed the state Department of Revenue to accept joint tax returns from same-sex couples who are legally married in other states. This led in February to the filing of articles of impeachment (full text) against the Democratic governor by a Republican lawmaker. (See prior posting.)  In January 2014 a lawsuit was filed seeking a declaratory judgment that the Executive Order is unconstitutional and an injunction against its enforcement.  The complaint (full text) in Messer v. Nixon, (MO Cir. Ct., filed 1/14/2014) contends that the executive order is inconsistent with Missouri Constitution Art. 1, Sec. 33 that provides the only marriages that will be recognized in the state are ones between a man and a woman. Now, as the April 15 filing date for tax returns approaches,  PoliticMO reports that plaintiffs in the lawsuit last Wednesday filed a motion asking the court to grant a temporary restraining order preventing enforcement of the Executive Order.

In Michigan, a federal district court earlier this month struck down the state's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. The next day, the 6th Circuit granted a stay of the order, pending appeal. However in the hours in between, some 300 same-sex couples married. (See prior posting.) In an announcement today (full text), U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the federal government would recognize these 300 marriages for purposes of eligibility for federal benefits.  He said in part:
The Governor of Michigan has made clear that the marriages that took place on Saturday were lawful and valid when entered into, although Michigan will not extend state rights and benefits tied to these marriages pending further legal proceedings.  For purposes of federal law, as I announced in January with respect to similarly situated same-sex couples in Utah, these Michigan couples will not be asked to wait for further resolution in the courts before they may seek federal benefits to which they are entitled.