The Buzz

Missouri pension system will no longer exclude same-sex couples

Same-sex spouses of state employees in Missouri who legally married in other states will soon be eligible for retirement benefits through the state employee pension plan.

The Missouri State Employees’ Retirement System (MOSERS) board of trustees voted 6 to 3 Monday to no longer enforce the state law that says a “spouse” for purposes of benefits only applies to marriages “between a man and a woman.” The vote applies to current and future retirees, said Missouri Treasurer Clint Zweifel, a Democrat who sits on the board of trustees.

“The tide of history and the march towards equality must not be ignored,” Zweifel said. “In order for Missouri to move forward, we must show the world we stand for inclusion and equality for everyone.”

How members of the board voted is not being released because the action happened during a closed session.

The board’s decision comes in response to a ruling earlier this month by a Jackson County judge that Missouri must recognize valid same-sex marriages performed outside of Missouri just as it recognized other valid marriages from other jurisdictions. Attorney General Chris Koster, a Democrat, declined to appeal the ruling despite calls by Republican lawmakers to do so.

Candace Smith, MOSERS spokeswoman, said the decision will go into affect after the time for appealing the Jackson County Court decision has expired on Nov. 13.

A.J. Bockelman, executive director of LGBT-rights group PROMO, said his organization looks forward to “ more of our state agencies recognizing the civil benefits now extended to all legally married couples.”

Same-sex marriage is still not legal in Missouri, but that is currently being challenged in court.

MOSERS provides benefits for more than 90,000 current and former state employees, including members of the Missouri General Assembly, elected state officials, judges, and administrative law judges and legal advisors.