The U.S. Supreme Court's gay-marriage rulings have raised questions about what will happen in states like Missouri that ban same-sex unions.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down a provision of a federal law that denies federal benefits to married gay couples. It also cleared the way for same-sex marriage in California. But the court said nothing about gay marriage bans in other states, allowing Missourians on both sides of the issue to claim at least some victory. Missouri voters overwhelmingly adopted a constitutional amendment in 2004 defining marriage as between a man and a woman.
The Missouri Family Policy Council, a conservative Christian interest group, said in a written statement that it's "most grateful to God that states like Missouri will be able to continue to defend and uphold the sacred institution of marriage as God designed it."
However, several religious organizations remained deeply concerned. The Archdiocese of St. Louis said in a written statement that the rulings don't "change the reality of marriage" or the church's "responsibility to defend marriage as being between one man and one woman." The Rev. Bart Day, executive director of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod's Office of National Mission, said the church was "saddened for our nation."
On the other side of the issue, Democratic U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay called the ruling a "historic turning point that advances full equality for all."
Tony Rothert, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri, said the decisions made him optimistic that a favorable ruling will be issued in a same-sex relationship case now pending before the Missouri Supreme Court. In that case, Kelly Glossip is suing for the survivor's benefit denied him after his partner, Missouri state trooper Dennis Engelhard, was killed investigating a 2009 accident.
"The fact that the court recognized that this kind of discrimination inflicts harm that is so irrational that it fails constitutional scrutiny under any standard does encourage us that the Missouri Supreme Court will reach a similar conclusion," Rothert said.
Rep. Mike Colona, D-St. Louis, and Sen. Jolie Justus, D-Kansas City, the only two openly gay members of the state legislature, praised the rulings.
"I rarely get emotional about these issues but this morning was kind of emotional for me," said Colona, who also is a lawyer. He added: "It will take another court case or two before full equality is achieved. But it is looking promising. Rome wasn't built in a day and discrimination laws weren't torn down in a day. We just have to keep slowly but surely marching forward."
Justus agreed that legal questions remained.
"The issue is going to become, 'What happens when the federal government begins to recognize marriages from other states and Missouri does not and how is that going to work?'" she said. "I think that there is still a lot of uncertainty relating to relationships for LGBT Missourians."