COLUMBIA — Boone County Treasurer Nicole Galloway announced Monday that the county will allow legally wed same-sex couples to use their marriage licenses as proof in unclaimed property cases.
Unclaimed property includes checks issued by the county that haven't been cashed for more than 180 days. The county has 3,000 accounts with $68,000 in unclaimed property on file, Galloway said.
Boone County will be the first county in Missouri to recognize same-sex marriage licenses for unclaimed property, said AJ Bockelman, executive director for PROMO, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights advocacy organization in St. Louis.
Although Missouri has a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, Galloway said she was able to enact the policy because it falls under her statutory responsibilities as custodian of unclaimed property for the county.
“I think that government entities in America and Missouri should respect same-sex marriage licenses the same way they do all other legal documents,” Galloway said.
Earlier in the month, eight gay couples, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, sued the state, asserting that its ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.
The lawsuit asks for Missouri to recognize marriages of gay couples who were wed where same-sex marriage is legal.
Bockelman says Galloway’s announcement is a good sign for the case.
“I think it is an opportunity to put a face to the issue — whether it’s unclaimed property, survivorship, hospital visitation rights or who carries your body,” Bockelman said.
Although Galloway’s policy is narrow in comparison, Jeffrey Mittman, executive director of the ACLU of Missouri, sees it as a welcome step away from discriminatory laws.
“This action by a Boone County official highlights one of the many ways in which couples are discriminated against when their legal marriages are not recognized," Mittman said.
“It is imperative that, as soon as possible, all loving families are afforded the full legal protections they seek and need by entering into a marriage.”