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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.
Published in Local News
Wednesday, 12 February 2014 15:14

Missouri ending some diesel fuel inspections

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri is curtailing inspections aimed at people who may illegally use farm diesel fuel in their over-the-road vehicles.
 
In response to concerns from lawmakers, acting Revenue Department Director John Mollenkamp said Wednesday that his agency would stop proactively looking for violations of the diesel fuel law and only respond to requests from law enforcement officials.
 
Missouri imposes a 17-cent tax on diesel fuel. But that tax is not charged on diesel used only for farming purposes. To distinguish between the two uses, farm diesel fuel is mixed with a dye.
 
The Revenue Department had been doing random inspections to see whether dyed fuel was being used in vehicles driven on highways.
 
Republican Sen. Mike Parson, a former Polk County sheriff, has called the program an unreasonable search of private property.
Published in Local News
Wednesday, 12 February 2014 13:53

Missouri woman facing rare, bigamy charge

PARK HILLS, Mo. (AP) - A 28-year-old woman is facing a rare criminal charge in Missouri - bigamy.
 
The Daily Journal newspaper in Park Hills, Mo., reports that Michelle Sykes was charged with the misdemeanor on Tuesday. Authorities say bigamy charges are rarely filed because, while people sometimes marry more than one spouse, it is not often reported.
 
St. Francois County prosecutors say Sykes was married in the county in 2010. In December, her husband told deputies he had recently discovered that she had married in 2008 in St. Clair County, Ill., and was apparently still married to that man, too.
 
St. Francois County prosecutor Jerrod Mahurin says the 2008 marriage would nullify the union made in Missouri.
Published in Local News
Tuesday, 11 February 2014 17:30

Missouri House takes aim at synthetic drugs

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri House members have given first-round approval to legislation taking aim at synthetic drugs.
 
The bill would add several specific substances to what is considered synthetic marijuana.
 
It was endorsed by a voice vote Tuesday and needs a second vote before moving to the Senate.
 
In recent years, Missouri has tried to keep pace with evolving synthetic drugs and twice has approved legislation targeting them. Sponsoring House member Shawn Rhoads says the current bill is needed to stay ahead in the effort.
 
Lawmakers in 2010 barred spice cannabinoids sold as incense known as K2. A year later, the definition of marijuana in state drug laws was expanded to cover synthetics. The 2011 measure also barred substances marketed as incense or "bath salts" that mimic the effects of cocaine and marijuana.
Published in Local News
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Supporters of a higher wages are urging Missouri lawmakers to let voters decide whether to increase the state's minimum wage to $10 an hour.
 
Missouri's minimum wage currently is $7.50 an hour - 25 cents higher than the federal minimum wage.
 
Several low-income workers testified Tuesday before a Missouri Senate committee in support of a proposed ballot measure increasing the minimum wage. The workers said they often must skip meals because they don't earn enough to pay all the bills for food, housing, utilities and transportation.
 
A Webster University economist said a minimum wage increase would help the economy, because workers likely would spend the additional money.
 
Lobbyists for several business groups testified against the measure, citing concerns that it could squeeze low-skill workers out of jobs.
Published in Local News
   WASHINGTON (AP) - The White House is applauding a University of Missouri football player's decision to announce that he is gay, with President Barack Obama's spokesman, first lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden all portraying him as a courageous and inspirational athlete.
   Biden and the first lady took to Twitter on Monday to comment on Michael Sam, the all-American college player who declared publicly on Sunday that he is gay. Mrs. Obama says she "couldn't be prouder" of Sam's courage, both on and off the field.
   The tweet was signed "-mo," which is how the White House marks messages personally sent by the first lady.
   "Your courage is an inspiration to all of us," Biden said. The message was signed "-VP," which designates that the vice president sent it personally.
   Sam could become the first openly homosexual player in the NFL. He's scheduled to participate in the league's weeklong scouting camp, where potential draftees are evaluated, later this month in Indianapolis. He is currently projected to be a mid-round draft pick in May.
   White House spokesman Jay Carney said the president "shares the sentiments expressed by the first lady and the vice president and so many others in marveling at his courage and congratulating him on the decisions he's made, on the support he's had from his team and wishing him well in the future, including in professional football."
   Carney said Sam's announcement should not affect his standing on the NFL draft and that his abilities should be measured by his performance.
   "And in this case, his performance has been exceptional," Carney said.
 
Published in National News
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Former U.S. Attorney Catherine Hanaway says she is running for Missouri governor in 2016.
 
Hanaway's announcement Monday makes her the first Republican to enter the race. Democratic Attorney General Chris Koster has been building a gubernatorial campaign since last year.
 
The office will be open because Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon is barred by term limits from seeking re-election.
 
Hanaway is a former state lawmaker from St. Louis County who in 2003 became the first women to serve as Missouri House speaker after helping Republicans win a majority in the chamber.
 
She lost a bid for secretary of state in 2004 but was appointed the next year by President George W. Bush to serve as U.S. attorney for the eastern Missouri. She held that position until April 2009.
Published in Local News
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri organizations representing teachers, administrators and school board members are supporting a plan for unaccredited districts as state education officials start digging into several proposals.
 
The Missouri School Boards' Association said Monday the plan calls for a contract between the State Board of Education and unaccredited school districts. Districts would commit to improving their performance while the state would classify the districts as provisionally accredited. It would relieve the school systems from a Missouri law that requires unaccredited school districts to pay for students to transfer to higher-performing districts elsewhere.
 
Kansas City and two school districts in St. Louis County are unaccredited.
 
Numerous plans have been submitted to the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The State Board of Education is holding a work session Monday.
Published in Local News

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri education officials are digging into proposals to help struggling school districts.

Three Missouri districts, including Kansas City, are currently unaccredited, and a 2013 law gave the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education more power to intervene in struggling school systems.

More than a half-dozen improvement plans have been submitted by school districts, education organizations and the Cities for Education Entrepreneurship Trust, a private school reform group under contract with the state.

The State Board of Education scheduled a work session on the proposals Monday. The education department plans to present its recommendations to the board on Feb. 18.

Published in Local News

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - More Missouri students could get personal help with filing out college applications this fall.

The Coordinating Board for Higher Education has announced an expansion of "College Application Week."

More than 2,000 students filled out applications during the inaugural event last October at 26 high schools in St. Louis, Kansas City and parts of rural Missouri. The board says it hopes to double the number of participating high schools this fall.

The program is available to all high school seniors, but the goal is to increase the number of applications from students in low-income families and those who would be the first in their families to attend college.

Members of the Missouri College Advising Corps provide one-on-one help to students when filling out applications.

Published in Local News

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