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The US Supreme Court has struck down the part of the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, that prevented same-sex couples from receiving federal benefits, like those in Social Security, insurance, immigration and tax filing. You can read the opinion here. But what does this mean for the state of Missouri? KSMU’s Jennifer Davidson has this interview.
Dr. Kevin Pybas teaches Constitutional Law in Missouri State University’s Department of Political Science. He also practiced law before getting his doctorate. I begin by asking him what bearing, if any, Wednesday’s decision has on Missouri law, which does not recognize same-sex marriage.
“On one hand, it doesn’t affect it at all, because there’s nothing in the opinion iteslf that says states have to recognize same-sex marriage. But, on the other hand, there’s language in the opinion that certainly suggests that that’s sort of the under-current here, the back story. And there's certainly language in the opinion that I’m confident that same-sex marriage advocates will emphasize and pick up on and challenge laws like Missouri’s where marriage is confined to heterosexuals,” Pybas said.
He said it’s quite possible that if same-sex advocates are denied a marriage license in Missouri, they might take a lawsuit against the state, in which they could refer back to the court’s language in Wednesday's opinion.
As for same-sex couples who were married in a state that allows same-sex marriage, then moved to Missouri, there’s confusion over whether Missouri will recognize their federal benefits as a spouse or not.
There was a provision in DOMA dealing with the “Full Faith and Credit Clause” of the US Constitution. Generally, that obligates one state to recognize the legality of acts of another state. But another clause in DOMA, he says, makes an exception for same-sex marriage…and justices didn’t address that in Wednesday’s opinion.
“So, in some ways, it’s anyone’s guess what this decision means for this,” Pybas said.
Also, today, the Supreme Court The court decided that supporters of California's Proposition 8, which outlawed same-sex marriages there, did not have a case before the court – and you can read that decision here. The court's decision in that case essentially means same-sex marriages in California may resume, but the ruling does not have a broader implication across the country.
Meanwhile, back in Missouri, Pybas said constituents’ voices will almost certainly play a role moving forward in state politics, regardless of where they stand on the definition of marriage.
For KSMU News, I’m Jennifer Davidson.