University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Amos v. Higgins PB-MO-0003
Docket / Court 2:14-cv-04011 ( W.D. Mo. )
State/Territory Missouri
Case Type(s) Public Benefits / Government Services
Attorney Organization ACLU Chapters (any)
Case Summary
On January 14, 2014, three women who wished to marry their incarcerated (male) partners filed a lawsuit in the Western District of Missouri U.S. District Court under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Moniteau County Recorder of Deeds of the state of Missouri. The plaintiffs, represented by the American ... read more >
On January 14, 2014, three women who wished to marry their incarcerated (male) partners filed a lawsuit in the Western District of Missouri U.S. District Court under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Moniteau County Recorder of Deeds of the state of Missouri. The plaintiffs, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), asked the court to declare that Mo. Rev. Stat. § 451.040.2 (a Missouri law that required both signers of a marriage license to appear in front of the recorder of deeds) is unconstitutional, issue an injunction requiring the defendant to issue marriage licenses to plaintiffs and others engaged to marry individuals who are unable to appear, and award the plaintiffs costs of suit and reasonable attorneys' fees.

The plaintiffs asserted that marriage is a fundamental right protected by the United States Constitution that is not changed by the incarcerated status of their fiancées. They claimed Missouri law, which requires that marriage license applications be signed "in the presence of the recorder of deeds or their deputy," violated this right and deprived plaintiffs of important federal and state benefits and privileges afforded to married couples.

On February 6, 2014, the Court (District Judge Gary A. Fenner) decided in favor of the plaintiffs. 2014 WL 572316. It ruled that the requirement that marriage licenses be signed "in the presence of the recorder of deeds or their deputy," was unconstitutional as applied to situations where an applicant for a marriage license is physically unable to appear in the presence of the recorder of deeds or their deputy due to incarceration. Amos v. Higgins, 2014 WL 572316 (W.D. Missouri 2014). The Court further enjoined defendants from requiring the presence of applicants who could not physically appear in front of the defendants due to incarceration, and also required defendants to issue licenses to applicants who presented reasonable written proof as to the authenticity of the signature of an applicant on a marriage license application and reasonable verified proof that the applicant is physically unable to appear in the presence of the recorder.

Megan Dolan - 07/22/2014


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Affected Gender
Female
Male
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Content of Injunction
Discrimination Prohibition
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
General
Marriage
Public benefits (includes, e.g., in-state tuition, govt. jobs)
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action State law
Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) State of Missouri
Plaintiff Description Plaintiffs are several women residing in Missouri and Arkansas who wish to have a state-recognized marriage to their respective same-sex, incarcerated fiancés.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU Chapters (any)
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Declaratory Judgment
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Form of Settlement None on record
Order Duration 2014 - n/a
Case Closing Year n/a
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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Case Studies Limited Partnership
http://www.limitedpartnershipmovie.com/
By: Thomas G. Miller
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  United States Government says L.A. Gay Couple’s 1975 Marriage is Valid
The Pride L.A.
Written: Jun. 07, 2016
By: Troy Masters
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
2:14−cv−04011 (W.D. Mo.) 02/07/2014
PB-MO-0003-9000.pdf | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief 01/14/2014
PB-MO-0003-0001.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Amended Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief 01/14/2014
PB-MO-0003-0002.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judgment and Order 02/06/2014 (996 F.Supp.2d 810) (W.D. Mo.)
PB-MO-0003-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Fenner, Gary A. (W.D. Mo.)
PB-MO-0003-0003 | PB-MO-0003-9000
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Doty, Grant R. (Missouri)
PB-MO-0003-9000
Rothert, Anthony E. (Missouri)
PB-MO-0003-0001 | PB-MO-0003-0002 | PB-MO-0003-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Berry, Michael G (Missouri)
PB-MO-0003-9000
Other Lawyers None on record

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