ACLU Lawsuit Seeks Recognition for Missouri Same-Sex Couples Legally Married Out-of-State

Affiliate: ACLU of Missouri
February 12, 2014 12:00 am

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KANSAS CITY, MO – The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Missouri filed a lawsuit in state court today on behalf of eight same-sex couples who are seeking recognition for their legal out-of-state marriages. The lawsuit does not seek a repeal of Missouri’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples within the state.

One of the couples represented in the lawsuit, Janice Barrier and Sherie Schild of St. Louis, has already experienced extreme hardship due to the state’s failure to recognize their marriage. They have been together for over 30 years, and were married in Iowa in 2009. Barrier was forced to accept a demotion in order to take time off to care for Schild when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1996. Five years later, Schild was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and had to stop working. Barrier was unable to add her to her medical insurance. In 2012, Barrier herself was diagnosed with rectal cancer.

“We have both sacrificed our finances and our livelihoods in order to care for each other,” said Barrier. “Our life savings have gone to paying medical bills. We are scared to death about what would happen if both of our cancers recur, or if one of us needs care in a nursing home and we’re denied the right to care for each other in privacy because the state views us as legal strangers. We just want the peace of mind of knowing we will always be able to look after each other.”

Other couples in the case include:

  • Lisa Layton-Brinker, a mid-Missouri first responder, and JoDe Layton-Brinker, who worry that JoDe would be denied the protections granted to other firefighters’ spouses should something happen to Lisa on the job;
  • Zuleyma Tang-Martinez and Arlene Zarembka of St. Louis, who have been together for 31 years and married in California in 2008;
  • James MacDonald and Andrew Schuerman of Kansas City who have a two-year-old daughter, Grace;
  • Elizabeth Drouant and Julikka LaChe of St. Louis who hope to adopt a child one day;
  • Ashley Quinn and Katherine Quinn of Springfield who moved to Missouri from Colorado to care for Quinn’s ailing relative;
  • Adria Webb and Patricia Webb of St. Louis who are raising two children; and
  • Alan Ziegler and LeRoy Fitzwater of St. Louis who relocated to Missouri for Fitzwater’s job.

“Because of the many benefits of marriage, Missouri has traditionally recognized lawful marriages performed in other states,” said Jeffrey Mittman, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri. “We know that the people of Missouri are fair-minded and did not intend to harm these eight families and others like them throughout Missouri. But our current laws do harm them.”

The lawsuit was filed in state court in Jackson County. The couples addressed the press at the time of filing at three simultaneous press conferences in St. Louis, Jefferson City, and Kansas City. A fourth press event will occur in Springfield at 5 p.m. CT.

“The past few years have seen a sea change as Americans increasingly embrace the idea that same-sex couples — who are their neighbors, friends, and loved ones – deserve the same recognition as any other family,” said Joshua Block, staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project. “We are hopeful that Missouri will acknowledge these plaintiffs as the committed couples they are, rather than treating them as legal strangers.”

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