Mo. Baptists sue state over gay marriage order

Four Missouri taxpayers including the editor of the Baptist state newspaper say Gov. Jay Nixon violated the state’s constitution with an executive order allowing same-sex couples legally married in another state to file joint tax returns.

By Bob Allen

Representatives of the Missouri Baptist Convention’s Christian Life Commission filed a lawsuit Jan. 8 challenging a recent executive order by Gov. Jay Nixon allowing same-sex couples legally married in another state to file joint tax returns with the state Department of Revenue.

jay nixonNixon, a Democrat serving his second term, issued an executive order Nov. 14 after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law defining marriage as only a “legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife,” unconstitutionally denied same-sex couples legal rights that are available to heterosexuals.

Nixon decided that same-sex couples living in Missouri who file joint federal tax returns can do the same on their individual consumer state tax return.

Plaintiffs including Don Hinkle, editor of the Missouri Baptist newspaper The Pathway and director of public policy for the Missouri Baptist Convention Executive Board, filed a lawsuit in Cole County Circuit Court in Jefferson City, Mo., claiming the governor’s order shows “flagrant disregard” for the Missouri Constitution, amended by voters in 2004 “so that to be valid and recognized in this state, a marriage shall exist only between a man and a woman.”

The lawsuit describes implementation of the executive order as “an unconstitutional and wasteful expenditure of government resources” that harms Missouri taxpayers.

michael whitehead“The governor took an oath to uphold the Missouri Constitution, which includes our marriage definition,” Michael Whitehead, a Kansas City attorney who filed the lawsuit, said in a story published Jan. 8 in The Pathway.

Whitehead said statements by the governor that he would like to see the people of Missouri reconsider the issue of same-sex marriage amount to “putting his thumb on the scales of justice.”

“His job is to enforce the constitution as it is, not as he wishes it to be,” Whitehead said. “If the governor wants to launch a campaign to repeal this section of our state Bill of Rights, he is welcome to try. But for now, the people of Missouri have spoken, with landslide clarity. Until the people speak otherwise, the governor should respect the rule of law and respect Missouri voters.”

Joining Hinkle as plaintiffs are Justin Mosher, pastor of Fifth Street Baptist Church in Hannibal, Mo., and chairman of the Missouri Baptist Convention’s Christian Life Commission, and Kerry Messer, legislative liaison for the CLC in the Missouri Legislature and founder of the Missouri Family Network.  

The fourth plaintiff is Joe Ortwerth, executive director of the Missouri Family Policy Council, one of more than 30 such state organizations formally associated with Focus on the Family, a Colorado Springs-based ministry started in 1977 by James Dobson.

Missouri Baptist leaders lobbied for the gay-marriage ban in 2004, delivering more than 10,000 signatures to state legislators calling for a constitutional amendment.

At their 2013 state convention held Oct. 28-30 in Kansas City, Missouri Baptists passed a resolution voicing “continued opposition to and grave disappointment in” the Supreme Court decision striking down the Defense of Marriage Act and reaffirming our historic and consistent support of the biblical definition of marriage as the exclusive union between one man and one woman.”