While Missouri isn’t exactly extending a welcome mat to same-sex couples, as it should, it did gain a small distinction last week.
Thanks to an executive order by Gov. Jay Nixon, same-sex couples who have legally married in other states and live in Missouri may now file joint state tax returns. Missouri is the only state that doesn’t recognize gay marriage to make such an allowance, according to groups that support marriage equality.
Nixon’s order reflects the rapid move toward acceptance of same-sex couples, and it certainly makes sense for the tax filers. After the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic decision invalidating part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, the federal government said same-sex couples could file joint returns, regardless of where they live. Nixon’s order frees up the spouses from having to complete separate, individual state returns.
Republicans were quick to accuse the Democratic governor of running afoul of a 2004 state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in the state. Rep. Nick Marshall of Parkville even fired off a few ludicrous posts on Facebook threatening to impeach Nixon.
The outrage is misplaced. The people who will be helped by Nixon’s order are already married. This is simply about their tax filings. Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster said the order is in compliance with state law.
Nixon said his opinions on gay marriage had changed. “I just don’t think we should treat folks differently in this zone anymore,” he said.
It is significant, and positive, that a normally risk-averse governor of an increasingly red state would embrace same-sex marriage.
Nine years ago, Missouri became the first state to pass a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in response to a Massachusetts court decision legalizing same-sex unions there.
Here is a much nobler claim to strive for: How about becoming the first state to repeal and reverse that constitutional amendment? Missouri should accept same-sex couples not just for tax purposes, but as welcome and equal citizens.
Copyright The Kansas City. Reprinted with permission.