2004 seemed to have been the year to approve gay marriage bans and Missouri voters made to sure to jump on the bandwagon. In fact, Missouri landed first place for states banning gay marriage after it was legalized in Massachusetts, this way, the gay marriage ban cannot be challenged by a court. The legislation already had 70 percent of the vote when only 91 percent of precincts had reported results. The Missouri Constitution goes a little overboard in establishing the complete and utter rejection of any legal unions for gay couples:
Section 33. That to be valid and recognized in this state, a marriage shall exist only between a man and a woman.
451.022. 1. It is the public policy of this state to recognize marriage only between a man and a woman.
2. Any purported marriage not between a man and a woman is invalid.
3. No recorder shall issue a marriage license, except to a man and a woman.
4. A marriage between persons of the same sex will not be recognized for any purpose in this state even when valid where contracted.
On Christmas day in 2009, one partner and son felt the impact of Missouri’s legislation. Dennis Engelhard, a Missouri highway state trooper, was hit and killed by a car as he stepped out of his vehicle while arriving at the scene of an accident. He had been a trooper for ten years and, because his relationship with his partner of fifteen years was not recognized by the state, neither his partner nor their son will benefit from about $28,000 that the state pension system would have awarded the family of a married employee.
Although gay marriage was banned in 2004, some say it might have a chance in 2012 since time has passed and attitudes change, as is the case in several other states. Gay marriage has been such a prominent issue on the national political stage, especially with the upcoming presidential elections, but for Missouri even accepting other legal relationships (that are not marriage) would be a big step in the right direction.
For a state that does not recognize any legal relationship for gay couples, an amazing thing happened in April of 2009. The Columbia City Council voted to set up a domestic partner registry. The idea was recommended and unanimously voted on by the Columbia Human Rights Commission; every council member also supported the idea.
The purpose of the registry is to “give partners a document that can be used for employee and health care benefits, but it also requires that domestic partners be treated the same as married couples for purposes of access and family discounts to city-owned recreational and other facilities.” Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe also added that the registry does not present employers with any obligations, but it is an available resource should they choose to use it.
Locals were excited about the measure as supporters of the LGBT community came to the council meeting with rainbow stickers and personal stories to share. Dick Blount, a retired United Methodist pastor of 50 years, showed up as well to make known his positive opinion about the domestic partnership registry. Students also talked about the positive effect this will have on their school, Missouri University, because of more incentive for qualified, LGBT faculty to work there.
The Department of Public Health and Human Services will be responsible for the registry; filing a request will carry a fee of $25.
Can gay couples marry in Missouri? No.
Are other legal relationships recognized? No, but domestic partnership registry is available in Columbia, MO.