Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Nixon: Same-sex marriage ruling affirms our most fundamental values

(From Gov. Jay Nixon)

Below are the prepared remarks given by Gov. Jay Nixon today in Kansas City at the signing ofExecutive Order 15-04 directing all departments, agencies, boards and commissions in the executive branch to take all necessary measures to ensure compliance with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which established a Constitutional right to same-sex marriage.

Good afternoon. I want to thank Judge Dale Youngs for hosting us in his courtroom, and the many public officials, business leaders and advocates who are joining us today.

As many of you know, last year, right here in this courtroom, Judge Youngs ruled that Missouri’s ban on recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states violated the equal-protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Eleven days ago, that ruling was affirmed by the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, a major victory for equality and an important milestone in our journey towards creating a fairer and more just society for all Americans.

In his majority opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote that quote, “The right of same-sex couples to marry that is part of the liberty promised by the Fourteenth Amendment is derived, too, from that Amendment’s guarantee of the equal protection of the laws.”

Justice Kennedy wrote that same-sex couples “hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”

The ruling was an affirmation of some of our most fundamental values:

That all our citizens have the right to equal opportunity and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect;

That no one should be discriminated against because of who they are or who they love;

That our state and our nation are stronger because of our rich diversity, not in spite of it.

And that while it may take time, the forces of division and mistrust will always give way to the values of tolerance, inclusion... and love.

This landmark ruling was a historic step forward for our nation, and it has some very real and practical benefits for families here in Missouri:
Same-sex couples in Missouri now have the right to get married – with all the rights and responsibilities that entails -- in all 114 counties and the City of St. Louis;
Missouri’s Constitutional amendment and state statutes prohibiting recognition of such marriages are invalidated;
And my executive order directing the Department of Revenue to accept the jointly-filed state tax returns of same-sex couples legally married in other states – is no longer necessary.

This ruling is good for families... it’s good for our communities... and it’s good for businesses too – as shown by the hundreds of companies, including many here in Missouri – who urged the court to legalize same-sex marriage to help them compete worldwide.

As Governor, I’m committed to protecting the rights of all Missourians, and that’s why today I am signing Executive Order 15-04 to ensure the Supreme Court’s ruling is implemented uniformly throughout state government.

Let me be clear – the court’s decision is now the law of the land and it will be implemented.

Executive Order 15-04 directs departments, agencies, boards and commissions in the executive branch to immediately take all necessary measures to ensure compliance with the Obergefell decision in all aspects of their operations.

From visitation rights to inheritance, birth certificates to health care, drivers’ licenses and insurance, this decision impacts a wide range of benefits and services – rights and obligations.

Many departments have already made these changes – but my order directs all state agencies to do a complete and thorough review of their operations, to guarantee that same-sex couples receive equal treatment in every respect.

It also makes clear that local governments have an obligation to comply with this ruling as well.

Finally, this order rescinds Executive Order 13-14, which I issued two years ago, directing the Department of Revenue to accept the jointly-filed state tax returns of same-sex couples who had been legally married in other states.

Some of you may recall that that executive order was controversial at the time, but it was the correct and lawful thing to do; and with the Supreme Court’s recent decision, this executive order is no longer necessary.

With that, it is my honor, here on July 7th 2015, to exercise the full authority of my office as the Governor of the State of Missouri, and sign Executive Order 15-04.

Today, as we mark this important step forward, we must also acknowledge the work left to do.

Same-sex couples have the right to get married – but here in Missouri, individuals can still be fired from their jobs for being gay. That’s wrong, it’s not who we are – and it must change.

That’s why I’m reiterating my call for the General Assembly to pass the Missouri Nondiscrimination Act, or MONA, which would prohibit discrimination against LGBT Missourians in employment, housing and public accommodations.

Five years ago, I signed an executive order banning discrimination based on sexual orientation in state government – now it’s time to ensure all LGBT Missourians to have these same protections.

We know in our hearts that passing MONA is the right thing to do. It’s also the business-friendly thing to do. More than a thousand businesses in Missouri, including Burns & McDonnell and H&R Block here in Kansas City, have endorsed this legislation, because a diverse workforce is a strong workforce.

This bill has already received bipartisan support in the Senate; now is the time to get this needed legislation to my desk.

Once again, I want to thank all of the dedicated advocates, public servants, civic and business leaders with us today for your tireless efforts – and, on a very personal level, for your friendship.

The First Lady and I recently celebrated our 28th wedding anniversary, and we are so grateful for all the blessings our marriage has bestowed on us and our family.

Today, we can all celebrate the fact that no Missourian will ever again be denied the right to build a life of happiness and fulfillment by marrying the person they love. Thank you.

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