Missouri House Speaker
Calls on Attorney General
to Defend Marriage Laws
Missouri House Speaker Tim Jones has demanded that Attorney General Chris Koster take action to defend Missouri's marriage laws in court, or legislators may take it into their own hands to see that Missouri's Constitution is defended. Representative Jones is calling on Koster to appoint an assistant attorney general to appeal a Kansas City local judge's decision to nullify Missouri's Marriage Amendment.
Jackson County Circuit Judge J. Dale Youngs recently ruled that the State of Missouri must legally recognize the same-sex unions of ten "couples" who claim that they were legally "married" in other states and countries. The decision by Judge Youngs contradicts provisions in Missouri's Constitution and Missouri state statutes, and also violates federal law and U.S. Supreme Court precedent.
Missouri has a constitutional amendment which says that "to be valid and recognized in this state, a marriage shall only exist only between a man and a woman." That constitutional language was adopted by Missouri voters in August of 2004 by a margin of 71 to 29 percent. Missouri also has a law known as the Defense of Marriage Act which states that "a marriage between persons of the same sex will not be recognized for any purpose in this state even when valid where contracted."
The decision by Judge Youngs cripples the effectiveness and enforceability of Missouri's Marriage Amendment. Same-sex "couples" in Missouri will simply schedule their "weddings" in Illinois, Iowa, or another state, and then return to Missouri as legally "married" parties in our state. While it is true that local recorders of deeds in Missouri will still not be able to issue same-sex "marriage" licenses in our state, that will be of little consequence. "Marriage" licenses will be obtained from another state and be immediately recognized in Missouri.
Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster announced last week that his office is not going to appeal Judge Youngs' dishonest decision to the Missouri Supreme Court. Koster provided false statements to justify his decision to abandon his sworn duties as the state's chief legal officer. Koster's behavior on an issue of this magnitude is unprecedented, and is an egregious episode of dereliction of duty by a leading public official.
Speaker Jones has sharply condemned Koster's disgraceful conduct. "Chris Koster has a duty to defend our state's constitution, whether he personally agrees with it or not. His job is to uphold and defend our constitution, not to make policy. He cannot just abandon his duties when they are politically inconvenient, and I think that it is disgraceful that he is attempting to do so."
The Speaker delivered a letter to Koster's office on Thursday calling on Koster to be true to his oath of office. In the letter, Representative Jones insists that Koster appoint an assistant attorney general to continue the appeal of the case, if Koster remains unwilling to do so himself. Jones gave Koster until Wednesday of this week to provide a formal response.
Most significantly, Speaker Jones warned Koster that if he failed to do his job and "mount an effective defense of the law," that he would "use the powers granted to the Missouri House to ensure our state's constitution is defended in court." The Speaker's warning suggests that he and other members of the Legislature may seek to intervene in court themselves to defend the Constitution in Koster's absence.
The Speaker also pointed out to Koster that his reckless behavior places the rule of law in Missouri on a slippery legal slope. "Today, you choose not to defend the definition of marriage contained in the Missouri Constitution. What will you do the next time a law or constitutional provision with which you disagree requires defense?"
"If you continue to refuse to defend this law, you will have created a precedent which can be used as a justification the next time an Attorney General chooses to make policy instead of carrying out their duties," Speaker Jones added. "This is a precedent that does not need to be set...You are obligated to defend the laws of this state without prejudice."