© 2024 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Missouri Same-Sex Couples Should Think Twice Before Marrying In Illinois

wedding rings

Same-sex couples in Missouri may not want to rush across the river to tie the knot.

Even though some counties in Illinois are beginning to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, Jeffrey Mittman, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri, says marriage licenses granted to two men or two women from Missouri may not prove valid.

Illinois law prohibits any marriage that would be void in the couple’s home state, and Missouri’s Constitution defines marriage as being between a man and a woman. While the word “void” does not appear in the Missouri amendment, approved by voters in 2004, Mittman told St. Louis Public Radio there’s still reason for concern.

Missouri couples may have no trouble actually getting licenses, but Mittman says there could be problems down the line if someone decides to challenge them.

“When these legal issues could come into to play is if, for example, there’s an adoption, if there’s a signing for a home, if there’s a loan — there are all sorts of legal situations where these things matter,” Mittman said.

Issues around the controversy were first reported by the St. Louis Beacon just after Illinois approved same-sex marriage this past November. Now, Mitttman is advising Missouri couples to check with an attorney about their particular situation before applying for an Illinois marriage license.

Iowa and several other states that allow same-sex marriage do not have laws prohibiting such marriages for couples from states with laws like Missouri’s.

Illinois Couples Also Cautioned

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan gave all counties the go-ahead this week to issue licenses after a federal judge in Chicago ruled Feb. 21 that the state’s ban was unconstitutional. Illinois’ marriage law was originally set to take effect June 1.

But even Illinois same-sex couples are being cautioned about marrying in their state, according to the Associated Press.

The AP reported that Macon County may begin issuing licenses on Friday. But it also said couples there will be told they could face legal challenges. Clerks in Cook and Champaign counties said they will begin issuing  marriage licenses to same-sex couples, according to the AP.

The Madison County Clerk’s office was closed Wednesday and therefore unavailable for comment. But the St. Clair County Clerk’s office told St. Louis Public Radio it is immediately accepting marriage applications from out-of-state and in-state couples of the same sex.

Still, these applications will be subject to a review by the state's attorney in St. Clair County, according to County Clerk Thomas Holbrook.

“If they want, they should come and apply and we’ll be back to them in a day or two after the application has been reviewed,” Holbrook said.

Holbrook wouldn’t speculate about whether those licenses will be granted or not.

Follow Nancy Fowler on Twitter: @NancyFowlerSTL

Share how this affects you, through the Public Insight Network: Gay couples in Missouri, are you considering getting married in Illinois?

Nancy is a veteran journalist whose career spans television, radio, print and online media. Her passions include the arts and social justice, and she particularly delights in the stories of people living and working in that intersection.