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Missouri lawsuit challenges order allowing same-sex couples to file joint tax returns

01/09/2014 10:36 AM

01/09/2014 7:20 PM

Gov. Jay Nixon’s executive order allowing gay and lesbian couples who were legally married in other states

to file joint Missouri tax returns faces a new legal challenge.

Four Missourians filed suit Wednesday, challenging the order as unconstitutional. They point to a constitutional amendment approved by Missouri voters in 2004 that defines marriage as between one man and one woman.

When Nixon issued his order in November, the Democratic governor said it applied solely to tax filing status and did not authorize or sanction same-sex marriage in Missouri.

The order was warranted, Nixon said, because Missouri’s tax code is tied to the federal returns, meaning married couples who file joint federal tax returns also must file state taxes jointly.

Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to invalidate parts of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, the Internal Revenue Service said all legally married same-sex couples would be treated as married regardless of whether they lived in a state that recognized their marriage.

The lawsuit challenges that reasoning.

“The governor took an oath to uphold the Missouri Constitution, which includes our marriage definition,” Michael Whitehead, a Kansas City attorney for the plaintiffs, said in a statement.

“When he issued this order, he said he hoped the people of Missouri would take another look at recognizing same-sex marriage. That is putting his thumb on the scales of justice. His job is to enforce the constitution as it is, not as he wishes it to be.”

A.J. Bockelman, executive director of the LGBT-rights group PROMO, praised the governor’s order and condemned the lawsuit.

“This order gives clear and equal guidance to all legally married couples in Missouri about how to complete their state income tax returns,” he said in a statement. “The plaintiffs have no grounds to file this case; the governor’s order should stand.”

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