Marriage Equality, Nullification, and Impeachment, Missouri Edition
Last June, in the wake of the SCOTUS ruling in US v Windsor, I noted the post-DOMA problems that remain for full marriage equality, using the maze of requirements for a college student applying for financial aid as an example. Near the end, I summed things up like this:
I’m happy that Edith Windsor is going to get a big tax refund, with interest. I’m happy that in a growing number of states, marriage equality is true at both the federal and state level. I’m happy that federal employees in same-sex marriages are getting a fair shake on their federal employment benefits. But for anyone who isn’t in one of those states, you’re still a long way from equal — even if you work for a gay-friendly company or the federal government. Lots and lots of questions remain, and sorting out the answers will be sticky indeed.
Which brings us to my home state of Missouri, the land of Todd Akin, Rush Limbaugh, and John Ashcroft.
Last November, Gov. Jay Nixon (a Democrat now in his second and final term) noted a big conflict for married same sex couples who live in Missouri. By one element of Missouri state law, a married couple is required to file a joint Missouri tax return if they filed a joint federal tax return. By another element of Missouri law, now enshrined in the state constitution, marriage is defined as only between a man and a woman. By still another element of Missouri law, phrases in tax law are to be interpreted according to the most current IRS rulings, and so according to IRS ruling 2013-17, the phrase “husband and wife” in the tax code shall include couples of the same gender who were married where that was legal, no matter where they live.
Nixon looked at this mess, and issued an executive order to sort it out. After a host of “whereas” clauses laying out his logic, the order concluded:
NOW, THEREFORE, I, JEREMIAH W. (JAY) NIXON, GOVERNOR OF THE STATE OF MISSOURI, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the State of Missouri, do hereby Order the Missouri Department of Revenue to follow sections 143.031.1 and 143.091, RSMo, and require all taxpayers who properly file a joint federal income tax return to file a combined state income tax return.
How do you think the state GOP reacted to this?
If you guessed “howls of outrage“, you’d be right. Tim Peacock of Peacock Panache laid out the statement of outrage from GOP Speaker of the Missouri House Tim Jones, who declaring that Nixon was “surrendering to the whims of the Obama administration.” As Peacock then noted, “Ignoring the fact that federal law supersedes any state law – including state constitutional laws that conflict with federal law – Jones disingenuously argued that Nixon carried out an Obama mandate in his executive order. In reality, Nixon’s order is actually (legally) based in the Defense of Marriage Act repeal decision made by the Supreme Court – a completely separate branch of federal government.”
But that’s just words. How do you think a REAL conservative would respond to Nixon’s order?
If you guessed “file suit against Gov. Nixon,” you’d be right. I’m shocked, shocked I tell you, to discover that three of the four plaintiffs in the suit are a pair of Baptist pastors and the founder of the Missouri Family Association.
But that’s just “howls of outrage in court,” and this is Missouri, where the GOP still embraces the doctrine of nullification, that nasty Civil War unpleasantness that was fought over it notwithstanding. So what’s a good GOP legislator to do, a REAL REAL conservative, when the Missouri governor refuses to follow the constitutionally illegal path of nullification, and the state attorney general backs up the governor?
If you guessed “file articles of impeachment against Governor Nixon,” filled with its own lengthier list of whereas clauses, you’d be right again.
*beats head against desk*
You can see why Missouri is also the state that produced Mark Twain. All that’s left for the Missouri GOP now is to call out the state militia and march on Whiteman Air Force Base and Fort Leonard Wood.
I can hardly wait.
h/t to Wikimedia Commons for the public domain photo of Mark Twain, D.Litt (Oxford University).