COLUMBIA, MO - With marriage equality comes same-sex divorce. Or at least that should be the natural order of things. But a Boone County judge’s ruling last month granting Missouri’s first same-sex divorce could prove a game changer in defeating a constitutional amendment barring such unions.


Boone County Circuit Judge Leslie Schneider granted a divorce for Columbia residents Dena and Samantha Latimer, who were wed in Massachusetts in 2009. Schneider’s ruling was granted under the legal doctrine of "comity," or the recognition of the laws of another jurisdiction. In short, a Missouri court can recognize the law of another state for the purposes of divorce "for the limited purpose of granting equitable relief."



In her ruling, Schneider cited a 1993 Western District Missouri Court of Appeals case where a divorce was granted for a marriage where the parties failed to obtain a legal license.



“The court maintains an authority to enter judgment with respect to a marriage that is not legally recognized," she said.



Schneider went on to say that denying Missouri same-sex couples the right to divorce "runs afoul of its due process obligations" under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.



Some 71 percent of Missouri voters approved an amendment to the state constitution in 2004 to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman.



Christopher Clark, a staff attorney for Lambda Legal’s Chicago office, confirmed that the divorce is the first in Missouri that the organization is aware of, but said courts in other states that do not recognize same-sex marriages have granted divorces for same-sex couples using the same basic reasoning that Schneider used in the Latimers’ divorce.





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