JEFFERSON CITY, MO. — A federal judge will now hear one of the lawsuits challenging Missouri’s ban on same-sex marriage it was announced today.


The move comes after state Attorney General Chris Koster intervened in the case requesting the change of jurisdiction.


Koster, who is running for governor in 2016, has previously stated he supports marriage equality, but will defend the state law.


According the Associated Press, the move to federal court could put the Missouri case on a more direct route through the federal appellate courts at a time when U.S. judges have been increasingly striking down other state bans on same-sex marriage.


The case in question, Lawson v Kelly, was filed in Jackson County Circuit Court earlier this year on behalf of two same-sex couples who were refused marriage licenses.


“With three separate cases pending within the state, it is no surprise that one case has been referred to the Federal Circuit,” said A.J. Bockelman, Executive Director of PROMO, Missouri’s statewide LGBT advocacy organization. “This doesn't change our opinion or perspective that Missouri is likely to see marriage be a reality for same-sex couples.” 


Koster’s office requested the switch due to the lawsuit’s claim that Missouri’s same-sex marriage ban violates equal-protection and due-process rights under the U.S. Constitution.


Because of these alleged federal violations, the case was moved to U.S. District Court, and assigned to Judge Ortrie Smith. The state of Missouri is not listed as a defendant.


Missouri overwhelmingly passed Amendment 2 in August 2004 that “limits marriage to one man and one woman.” A similar law was passed by the State Legislature in 1996.




On Wednesday, several cities across Missouri celebrated the launch of public education campaign Show Me Marriage. The campaign is a partnership between PROMO, ACLU of Missouri, Progress Missouri, and Freedom to Marry.


Show Me Marriage is a grassroots public education campaign to Show all Missourians that Missouri is ready for marriage equality. The campaign's new website, also unveiled last night, showcases same-sex Missouri couples, their families, and allies that support marriage equality. It also provides the latest news on the marriage equality effort across the state.


Several PROMO staffers were on hand at the St. Louis launch held at Meyer's Grove where Bockelman gave a brief rundown of the three cases challenging the state’s same-sex marriage ban.


“Our goal is to see marriage equality in Missouri,” said Bockelman, referencing the changing tide of public opinion on the issue. Conflicting polls show between 52-54 percent of Missourians support marriage equality. 


In addition to the Lawson case, two other cases will make their way through Missouri courts. Barrier v. Vasterling, filed in February 2014 by the ACLU of Missouri in Jackson County includes eight Missouri couples seeking recognition of their out of state marriages in Missouri. A hearing for this case is set for September 25, 2014.


A separate case involves the former St. Louis Recorder of Deeds, Sharon Carpenter, issuing marriage licenses to four St. Louis gay and lesbian couples on June 26. Missouri v Sharon Quigley Carpenter could be heard as early as next year.




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