- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 12, 2014

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit Wednesday seeking to force Missouri to recognize same-sex marriages performed in states or countries that allow them. Here are five things to know about Missouri’s law.

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CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT: Missouri voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment - with 70 percent support - in August 2004 that prohibits same-sex marriage. The measure states: “That to be valid and recognized in this state, a marriage shall exist only between a man and a woman.” Missouri was a trailblazer of sorts, becoming the first state to enact such an amendment after the Massachusetts high court permitted gay marriage there. Other states adopted similar measures in subsequent years.

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MISSOURI HIGH COURT: Last October, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled against a man seeking state survivor benefits after his same-sex partner, Highway Patrol Cpl. Dennis Engelhard, was killed while working in 2009. Missouri’s law governing state survivor benefits defines marriage as between a man and a woman. The state’s high court said Kelly Glossip was ineligible for the benefits because he was not married to Glossip.

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EXECUTIVE ACTION: In November, Democratic Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon announced that he was directing state tax officials to accept joint tax returns filed by same-sex couples who were legally married elsewhere. Nixon noted that Missouri’s tax code is tied to the federal one, and that federal officials had recently decided to allow legally married gay couples to file joint federal tax returns. Officials from the Missouri Baptist Convention were among several plaintiffs who sued in January contending that Nixon’s policy violates the Missouri Constitution. Some Republican state House members have filed articles of impeachment against Nixon because of the policy, though no hearings have been held.

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DISCRIMINATION LAWS: Missouri law does not currently prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. The state Senate, on the final day of the 2013 session, passed a measure that would have added sexual orientation to a list of anti-discrimination categories that already includes race, color, gender, religion and disabilities. But the bill never was considered by the House. Nixon has called for passage of the measure this year, but no legislative hearings have been held on it.

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GAY FOOTBALL PLAYER: The ACLU’s lawsuit isn’t the first significant event in Missouri this week pertaining to gay rights and discrimination. Michael Sam, an All-American football player at the University of Missouri, publicly announced he is gay. Sam is preparing for the National Football League draft, and if he makes a team, he could become the first openly gay NFL player.