Marriage equality keeps gaining momentum in the most unlikely places. The latest examples are in Missouri, Oklahoma and Idaho, where pressure from the courts is nudging the states that would otherwise seem immovable.
Marriage equality is still banned in Missouri, but that hasn’t stopped a county circuit judge from granting a divorce to a a lesbian couple married in Massachusetts. Dena and Samantha Latimer sought to end their five-year marriage in their home state of Missouri, instead of establishing residency in Massachusetts. Judge Leslie Schneider ruled that Missouri doesn’t have to recognize the marriage, but it does have to recognize the laws of other states. However, Schneider’s ruling is a de facto recognition of the marriage. After all, you can’t dissolve what you don’t recognize. The Latimers’ divorce is the first same-sex divorce in the state, and it allows the couple the same protections for dividing assets and deciding child custody issues as heterosexual couples enjoy.
The ruling comes at a time when state Republicans have finally decided to give up their vainglorious hopes of impeaching Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon, chiefly for issuing an executive order allowing same-sex couples to file joint tax returns. State Rep. Nick Marshall complained that Nixon had ignored the state’s ban on marriage equality and had “usurped the people and their authority to determine their constitution and their restraints on government.”
Meanwhile, Freedom to Marry has launched a statewide television ad in Oklahoma aimed at convincing the state’s residents that 1) there are gay people in Oklahoma and 2) they deserve to be treated like any other Oklahoman. The ad features the Cuyler family, which lives on a ranch. Father Ed, a decorated Vietnam veteran, and mother Robbie live on the ranch with their daughter Deedra and her wife, Amber. Deedra and Amber were married in Massachusetts in 2011.
With what Time calls “its rural aesthetic and the appeal to family values,” the ad is preparing the way for what seems the inevitable. A federal court struck down the state’s ban on marriage equality in January, and a federal court ruling on the state’s appeal is expected within weeks.
Idaho could also just be weeks away from seeing its marriage ban fall. Federal Judge Candy Dale told lawyers for four couples suing the state that they should expect a decision from her in the “relatively near future.”
“Ten out of 10 federal district courts which have considered challenges to their states’ same sex marriage bans have found them to be unconstitutional, and likewise we are here to ask this court to do the same,” Deborah Ferguson, the couples’ attorney, said. As for the state’s argument that tradition holds marriage to be between a man and a woman, Ferguson has a ready response: “Traditional discrimination is just another way of saying discrimination that has happened for a long, long time.”