The legislative leaders of the Missouri General Assembly have gone to court to defend the institution of marriage in Missouri. Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey
and House Speaker Tim Jones
have filed a motion in Jackson County Circuit Court seeking to
intervene in a crucial legal challenge to Missouri's marriage laws.
In that case, the ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of ten homosexual "couples" who claim they were "married" in other states and countries. In their lawsuit, known as Barrier v. Vasterling
, the ACLU demanded that the State of Missouri recognize these out-of-state "marriages" as valid in Missouri.
Jackson County Circuit Judge J. Dale Youngs ruled in early October in favor of the plaintiffs, pontificating that Missouri's laws defining traditional marriage violated the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. In so doing, Judge Youngs struck down both Missouri's Marriage Amendment and Missouri's Defense of Marriage Act.
The Missouri Marriage Amendment was adopted by state voters in August of 2004 by a resounding vote of 71 to 29 percent. It declares that "to be valid and recognized in this state, a marriage shall only exist between a man and a woman. "
Missouri's Defense of Marriage Act was first adopted by the Missouri Legislature in 1996. It 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."
In a subsequent shocking development, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koste
r announced he was abandoning his duties as the state's chief legal officer, and refusing to appeal Judge Youngs' reckless decision to the Missouri Supreme Court. Senator Dempsey and Representative Jones are now seeking to intervene in the case on behalf of the General Assembly in order to appeal Judge Youngs' decision in Koster's absence.
Senator Dempsey, Speaker Jones, and incoming Speaker John Diehl had sent a letter to Koster on November 7th, urging him to fulfill his sworn duties on behalf of Missouri citizens. Ten days later, Koster replied that he would persist in his dereliction of duty in defiance of the will of Missouri voters.
In their motion, the legislators state that "the well-being of marriage as a social institution in Missouri has been uniquely entrusted to the General Assembly...the General Assembly has a significant interest as a governmental employer in adhering to its constitutional and statutory duty to apply the State's marriage laws as enacted."
The motion also accuses the Attorney General of "acting arbitrarily and capriciously" by refusing to file an appeal in the case. The legislators went further to state that Koster's "legal strategy seems calculated to undermine the General Assembly's interests in defending the challenged marriage laws."
"The General Assembly has a significant interest as the state's legislative body, and as the author of the challenged laws, to ensure that the state's marriage laws are adequately defended in court," the motion continues. The motion also points out the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled previously that a "State Legislature and its authorized representatives have the authority to defend the constitutionality of a statute" when a state attorney general refuses.