Gov. Jay Nixon directed all Missouri state agencies on Tuesday to review their procedures in order to immediately implement the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision legalizing same-sex marriage.
Nixon signed an executive order at a news conference in Kansas City, saying the Supreme Court’s ruling was “a major victory of equality and an important milestone on our journey toward creating a fair and more just society for all Americans.”
“Let me be clear, the court’s decision is now the law of the land and it will be implemented,” Nixon said before signing the bill surrounded by same-sex couples and advocates.
The order also rescinds an executive order Nixon signed in 2013 that directed the state Revenue Department to accept jointly filed state tax returns from same-sex couples married in other states. The governor said the Supreme Court’s ruling makes that executive order unnecessary. A lawsuit filed by the Missouri Baptist Convention Christian Life Commission and the Missouri Family Policy Council challenging the 2013 executive order was dropped Tuesday.
Pettis County issued its first same-sex marriage license last week, almost a week after the Supreme Court’s decision was handed down. Recorder of Deeds Barbara Clevenger issued a marriage license to Bobbie Jo M. Lawler, 45, and Jolene K. Geer, 53, both of Sedalia, on Thursday, July 2.
Clevenger said she issued another same-sex marriage license this week. She said she’s had a few inquires about same-sex marriage licenses from organizations, but very few from individuals seeking a license.
Nixon said the latest order will send a message that all state agencies are expected to review their operations and make any necessary changes to guarantee that same-sex couples receive equal treatment. The order also makes clear local agencies have an obligation to implement the ruling.
Nixon also reiterated his call for state lawmakers to pass the Missouri Nondiscrimination Act, which would prohibit discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations based on sexual orientation, saying employees can still be fired in Missouri because of their sexual orientation. He noted 19 Missouri Republican senators voted to the pass the act two years ago, albeit on the last day of the session before it could reach the House. A bill to bar discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity passed out of the only Democratic-led Senate committee this year, but never was debated on the Senate floor.
The Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing same-sex marriage and a pronounced shift in attitudes on the issue improve the chances of the act passing in the Legislature, Nixon said.
“My sense is the votes are there,” he said. “And that when asked to cast the reds (no) and greens (yes), people will want to cast a green to be on the right side of history.”
Missouri Senate Majority Leader Ron Richard, R-Joplin; House Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff; and Assistant Majority Floor Leader Rep. Mike Cierpiot, R-Lee-Summit, did not immediately return calls from The Associated Press seeking comment.
After the governor’s remarks, the Rev. LeRoy Glover of the Pentecostal Church of God and Christ in Kansas City asked him about people who refuse to help same-sex couples get married because of their religious beliefs. Glover stressed that he believed Christians should not refuse service to people who are already legally married, but said his faith does not allow him or others with similar beliefs to help same-sex couples with the marriages.
“Freedom of religion is one of the basic principles this country is founded on,” Nixon said. “Nothing about the Supreme Court ruling or my order changes that. This is about state government being sure that people’s rights are protected. What we’re doing is not designed or effectuated to affect people’s freedom of religion.”
PROMO, a St. Louis-based organization that advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender equality, applauded Nixon’s actions.
“The Supreme Court’s landmark decision is a watershed moment for equality, but there is still much more work to do to and PROMO will continue to work with Governor Nixon and the legislature to adopt nondiscrimination policies, ensure that our transgender friends and family have access to the services they need, and prioritize additional community needs,” the group said in a statement.