On June 24, 2014, plaintiffs, two same-sex couples living in Missouri, filed a lawsuit in the Circuit Court of Jackson County, Missouri Sixteenth Judicial Circuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Director of Jackson County Department of Recorder of Deeds in his official capacity. The plaintiffs, represented by the ACLU of Missouri Foundation, asked the court for declaratory and injunctive relief, claiming that the State of Missouri's laws barring same-sex marriage violated the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Specifically, plaintiffs argued that the bans deprived them of the fundamental right to marry under the Due Process Clause, made impermissible distinctions based on gender under the Equal Protection Clause, and would not pass rational basis review under the Equal Protection Clause.
The Jackson County Recorder of Deeds had denied plaintiffs' marriage license applications solely because their relationships were same-sex. In response, plaintiffs brought suit asking the court to declare Missouri's same-sex marriage bans unconstitutional and to issue an injunction directing the defendant to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples with otherwise valid applications.
On July 11, 2014, the Circuit Court (Judge Edith L. Messina) granted the Missouri Attorney General's uncontested motion to intervene as a matter of right on the state's behalf. Four days later, the Attorney General filed a notice of removal in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, which moved the case to federal court. From then on, the Attorney General handled the defense on behalf of the state and the Recorder of Deeds.
On November 7, 2014, the District Court for the Western District of Missouri (Judge Ortrie D. Smith) held that Missouri's same-sex marriage bans violated the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment and it permanently enjoined the defendant at the Recorder of Deeds from denying marriage license applications based on the applicants' gender. Lawson v. Kelly, No. 14-0622-CV-W-ODS, 2014 WL 5810215, (W.D. Mo. 2014). The district court, however, dismissed one count in the plaintiff's complaint, which said that same-sex marriage bans did not pass rational basis review. This argument, the court held, was precluded by the decision in Citizens for Equal Protection v. Bruning, 455 F.3d 859, 867-68 (8th Cir. 2006). The district court stayed the effects of its judgment until the judgment was final. Plaintiffs filed a motion to lift the stay, which the district court denied.
On December 5, 2014, the Attorney General filed a notice of appeal for the district court's November 7th order. Three days later, the plaintiffs filed a notice of cross-appeal for the count in its complaint, which the district court had dismissed. That same day, the district court awarded plaintiffs attorneys' fees and costs, staying the order pending completion of all appeals.
On January 22, 2015, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit denied the same-sex couples motion to vacate the district court's stay and the opposing party's motion to stay the appeal. Instead, the Eighth Circuit granted the same-sex couples' alternative motion to expedite the appeal.
Argument was set both in this case and in two other same-sex marriage cases, Rosenbrahn v. Daugaard (PB-SD-0001
in this Clearinghouse) and Jernigan v. McDaniel (PB-AR-0004
in this Clearinghouse), for the second week of May, but on April 29, 2015, the Court of Appeals deferred further consideration of the cases until after the Supreme Court renders decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, in June 2015.David Hamstra - 03/15/2015