Legal impact of Supreme Court ruling unclear for Missouri gay community

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — For the Missouri gay community, Wednesday’s landmark decision at the United States Supreme Court overturning much of the Defense of Marriage Act carries significant symbolic weight.

But aside from that, in a state where the constitution bans same-sex marriage, it is unclear what legal impact the 5-4 decision may actually have. The ruling stated only that same-sex couples legally married would be given the same federal benefits given to other couples.

PROMO, a statewide advocacy organization that touts itself as promoting equal treatment under the law for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, said Wednesday’s ruling was nonetheless historic and pledged to remain vigilant.

“Understanding the impact on Missouri will take a bit of time, but rest assured, we will continue to fight for justice on behalf of the community in everything from basic protections to marriage rights,” said A.J. Bockelman, executive director of PROMO.

Missouri voters approved a constitutional ban on gay marriage in 2004, but it is unclear what impact that amendment will have on Missouri couples that were married in other states. Kiefer said they may be able to receive some federal benefits, but was unsure about the ruling’s immediate impact. She added that the case has created awareness, and said the gay community has come a long way in the recent decade.

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, speaking to reporters, said the ruling was a “watershed moment” for the country, and said she applauded the decision. Still, McCaskill said she was unsure what practical impact the ruling might have in Missouri.

“It was complicated before the decision, and it remains complicated,” McCaskill said. “I wish they coulld have made a decision — it would have clarified everything.”

McCaskill announced her support for equal marriage rights last year soon after the election (a move supported privately by the LGBT community, who said they understood the political reality and necessity for her to wait).

Gov. Jay Nixon, who has stayed characteristically quiet on the issue — still uneasy political territory in socially-conservative Missouri — lauded Wednesday’s ruling as “an important step forward for equal protection and due process,” the St. Louis Post Dispatch reported.