TN 5 (04-15)

PR 05825.028 Missouri

A. PR 15-096 State of Missouri – Does Missouri Recognize a Same-Sex Marriage Formed in Canada

DATE: March 12, 2015

1. SYLLABUS

The SSI recipient entered into a valid same-sex marriage in Ontario, Canada in August 2003. As of October 6, 2014, Missouri recognized the SSI recipient’s marriage to her spouse. 

2. OPINION

ISSUE PRESENTED

Missouri residents J~ (supplemental security income (SSI) recipient) and S~ entered into a same-sex marriage in Ontario, Canada, in August 2003.  Do the parties have a valid marriage under Canadian law and is the marriage recognized by the state of Missouri?

OPINION

BACKGROUND

In August 2003, the SSI recipient and another woman married in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. The couple resides in Missouri. 

ANALYSIS 1 The Title XVI program requires an evaluation of family relationships such as marriage for purposes of income and deeming purposes.  In this case, the issue that needs resolution is whether SSA should apply spousal deeming based on a same-sex marriage performed in a foreign jurisdiction.  Because the SSI recipient and the other individual make their permanent home in Missouri, we apply Missouri law to determine whether their marriage is valid. See 42 U.S.C. §§ 416(h)(1)(A)(i), 1382c(d); 20 C.F.R. § 416.1806(a)(1); Program Operations Manual System (POMS) GN 00305.005, SI 00501.150.  Under Missouri law, the validity of a marriage is determined by the law of the jurisdiction where the marriage was entered into. See Hartman v. Valier & Spies Milling Co., 202 S.W.2d 1, 5-6 (Mo. 1947); Boyer v. Dively, 58 Mo. 510 (1875) (“The general rule, that a marriage, valid where celebrated, is valid everywhere, is a matter of comity of nations and States.”).  The only exception is when the marriage is in violation of strong public policy of Missouri. See Hesington v. Estate of Hesington, 640 S.W.2d 824, 825-26 (Mo. Ct. App. 1982) (quoting Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws § 283(2) (1971)) (“A marriage which satisfies the requirements of the state where the marriage was contracted will everywhere be recognized as valid unless it violates the strong public policy of another state which had the most significant relationship to the spouses and the marriage at the time of the marriage.”). 

As pertinent here, on October 6, 2014, Missouri began recognizing as valid same-sex marriages entered into in other jurisdictions. See POMS GN 00210.003 (noting Missouri recognized same-sex marriages on October 6, 2014); see also Statement of Attorney General Chris Koster, dated Oct. 6, 2014 (noting that his office would not appeal the circuit court’s ruling in Barrier v. Vasterling, Civ. No. 1416-CV03892, Order and Judgment (Jackson Cnty. Mo. Cir. Ct., Oct. 3, 2014) (finding Missouri statutory and constitutional provisions prohibiting recognition of extra-jurisdictional valid same-sex marriages violated the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution)), available at http://ago.mo.gov/newsreleases/2014/ Attorney_General_Kosters_statement_on_his_decision_not_to_appeal_in_Barrier_v_Vasterling/ (last visited on Feb. 19, 2015).  Accordingly, the recognition of same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions does not appear to violate a strong public policy of Missouri. 

Therefore, we next consider whether the SSI recipient’s marriage is valid under the law of Ontario, Canada. See Hartman, 202 S.W.2d at 5-6; Boyer, 58 Mo. 510; POMS GN 00210.006. Same-sex marriages have been legal in Ontario since June 10, 2003. See Halpern v. Canada, [2003] 65 O.R. 3d 161 (Ont. C.A.), available at http://www.ontariocourts.on.ca/decisions/2003/june/halpernC39172.htm (last visited on Feb. 18, 2015). Indeed, same-sex marriage has been legal across Canada since July 20, 2005, the effective date of the federal-level Civil Marriage Act. See Civil Marriage Act, S.C. 2005, c. 33, § 2, available at http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/ acts/c-31.5/page-1.html (last visited Feb. 19, 2015). Section 2 of the Civil Marriage Act states that marriage, for civil purposes, is t