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Koster backs up Nixon's decision allowing same-sex couples to file joint tax returns

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon. - Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster appears to be siding with Gov. Jay Nixon’s announcement this week that same-sex couples married in another state can file joint tax returns in Missouri.

Koster, a former Republican who’s now a Democrat, declared through a spokeswoman late Friday that “Governor Nixon appears to be following the requirements of Missouri law on tax filing, as passed by the legislature.”

Koster was alluding to the fact that Missouri law now requires couples to file joint state tax returns, if they do so on the federal level.    The implication was that the Republican-controlled General Assembly would have to change the law, if it objected to Nixon’s decision.

“The Attorney General's role is to defend such state laws to the extent possible, and not to presume that our legislature's actions violate our state's constitution,” Koster’s statement said.

The statement was issued after state Rep. Chuck Gatschenberger, R-Lake St. Louis, and state House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka, called on Koster to produce a legal opinion on Nixon’s plan to issue an executive order on the tax issue.

Late Friday, Koster’s staff issued a statement stating that the attorney general had yet to receive any formal request for such an opinion, from the governor or members of the General Assembly.

Gatschenberger  said he “is troubled by Governor Jay Nixon’s executive order allowing tax benefits to gay couples married in other states,” citing the state’s constitutional amendment passed in 2004 that bars same-sex marriage or civil unions.

“The voters of Missouri overwhelmingly passed an amendment to our state Constitution defining marriage as between a man and a woman,” Gatschenberger said. “The governor is sworn to uphold Missouri’s Constitution. The fact that his executive order ignores this part of our Constitution is a problem. I have requested Attorney General Koster to issue an opinion regarding whether or not the Governor’s unilateral decision via executive order is lawful.”

Meanwhile, Jones on Thursday accused Nixon of failing to defend the ban on the same-sex marriage, and called on him to produce a legal opinion from Koster “providing the justification” for the governor’s action.

Nixon, the state’s former attorney general, said his action simply followed Missouri law regarding tax filing, and had nothing to do with the ban on same-sex marriage.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.