Missouri is one among the decreasing number of states with a same-sex marriage ban that is scheduled to be addressed by the US Supreme Court. Same sex marriages have been conducted in several areas surrounding St. Louis and Kansas City, which is good news for the gay community.
Last December, a man seeking divorce from his husband appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court to dissolve the union even though the state’s constitution did not permit same sex marriages because they are unnatural and have never been recognized in the history of humankind. The couple was married in Iowa, one of the states that permits gay marriages, two years ago but sought divorce in Missouri.
Dissolution of gay marriages still unclear
The case came up in the Supreme Court this February, in which the court ruled that the St. Louis County Circuit Court judge should not have dismissed a request for divorce by M.S. the man who petitioned for divorce. However, according to St. Louis divorce attorneys, they did not decide on whether judges were authorized to grant divorces to gay couples.
While the ruling dictates that the St. Louis judge must consider the request to grant a divorce from the same sex couple married in Iowa, whether gay marriages can be dissolved when rulings overturning the state’s ban on same sex marriages were still being appealed is still unclear.
M.S.’s petition was denied on the grounds that the judge lacked jurisdiction due to the ban on same sex marriages in the Missouri Constitution. However, the Supreme Court judges in their latest opinion noted that Missouri judges had jurisdiction and could even deny requests for same sex divorce. This opinion could lead to another issue on whether same sex couples living in Missouri could be divorced in a state where such marriages were prohibited.
Brighter prospects for same sex couples
According to St. Louis divorce attorneys, a Jackson County Circuit Court judge’s October 2014 decision that the state must recognize same sex marriages performed in other states was not opposed by the Attorney General, Chris Koster. This would give M.S. and D.S. the opportunity to be granted a divorce. A St. Louis state judge and Kansas City federal judge overturned the state’s ban in November.
However, appeals are still pending before the Supreme Court and 8th Circuit US Court of Appeals. Similar cases of same sex divorce petitions have been dismissed in Alabama and Nebraska. A case on whether same sex divorces should be allowed is also pending before the Mississippi Supreme Court.
Missouri divorce laws
St. Louis divorce attorneys say that under Missouri laws it is not necessary for one spouse to prove adultery, cruelty or any other reason to obtain a dissolution since the state has limited ‘no fault’ divorce. In most cases, couples seek divorce on grounds of irreconcilable differences although there is always the provision to allege other grounds. The state uses the term ‘dissolution of marriage’ instead of divorce while one of the spouses are required to have been a resident of the state for at least 3 months before a petition can be filed.