December 9th, 2014
The Missouri Supreme Court will decide if a same-sex couple married in Iowa can get divorced in the state of Missouri.
Attorney Drey Cooley, who represents a man identified as M.S., argued in front of state Supreme Court judges Wednesday that Missouri should dissolve the union, even though the state does not allow same-sex marriage.
The couple separated in August 2013. They requested for a divorce in January but a St. Louis County Circuit Court judge denied the petition, naming Missouri’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.
The case does not seek to address the legality of gay marriage in the state of Missouri. Cooley argues that Missouri can dissolve this same-sex marriage without also acknowledging the marriage.
Cooley’s client “just wants the same rights that anyone else would want to be in that situation—to get dissolved and move on.”
The state’s current ban has come into question recently: an October decision in Jackson County declared that Missouri must acknowledge same-sex marriages performed in other states.
Missouri’s Republican leaders have vowed to appeal the Jackson County decision, which Democratic Attorney General Chris Koster said he will not fight.
On November 4, St. Louis city Circuit Judge Rex Burlison found Missouri’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, motivating many same-sex couples to get married at city hall that day. Two days later, U.S. Circuit Judge Ortie Smith in Kansas City also ruled the ban unconstitutional.
Koster, who is for gay marriage, appealed both rulings, stating he is forced to uphold Missouri’s laws in court.
Cooley contends the state Supreme Court could avoid deciding the legality of same-sex marriage by ordering the union be observed like other out-of-state marriages for the intent of divorces. As an example, common-law marriages are not recognized in Missouri but can still be dissolved by a judge.
The U.S. Supreme Court may also hear arguments on same-sex divorce in 2015.
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