JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (CN) - Same-sex couples who are legally married in other states can file joint state tax returns in Missouri, Gov. Jay Nixon said, citing the need to follow federal tax law.
The change came after the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated part of the Defense of Marriage Act in June. The IRS then ruled that legally married same-sex couples will be treated as married for federal tax purposes no matter where they live.
Nixon late last week said he would issue an executive order on Friday, telling the Missouri Department of Revenue to accept couples' joint state tax returns if they file joint federal returns. Nixon said he is making the change because state tax law is linked to federal tax law.
"This is not about the definition of marriage," Nixon told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "This is about the structure of the tax code."
Nevertheless, the decision drew the ire of Republicans, who control both the Missouri House and Senate. Conservatives said that state voters passed a constitutional amendment in 2004 defining marriage as between a man and a woman.
House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka, said Nixon, a Democrat, was going against the voters' will.
"The governor's job is to defend our state's constitution - including the constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman that was passed overwhelmingly in this state - not to surrender to the whims of the Obama administration," Jones said in a statement.
Gay rights groups applauded Nixon's decision. PROMO, a gay rights advocacy group, told the Post-Dispatch that of all of the states that do not recognize same-sex marriages, Missouri is the only one that allows couples to file joint returns.
"This is a great sign. We're very excited about it," Robin Maril, attorney for the Human Rights Campaign in Washington told the Post-Dispatch. "As Gov. Nixon points out (in his remarks), this is the only appropriate course of action."
Nixon said he would like voters to take another vote on recognizing same-sex marriages.
Fifteen states and the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriage, with neighboring Illinois soon to become the 16th.
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn said he will sign a recently passed bill that will recognize such marriages; it is expected to take effect June 1, 2014.
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