Missouri Insurances Moving to Extend Coverage to Same Sex Couples

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri’s main health-care and retirement plans are expanding benefits to same-sex spouses after a recent court ruling requiring the state to recognize gay marriages performed elsewhere.

The decisions about state benefits come as Republican legislative leaders on Thursday continued to criticize Democratic Attorney General Chris Koster for not aggressively defending the state’s constitutional prohibition on gay marriage.

Jackson County Circuit Court Judge J. Dale Youngs ruled last Friday that Missouri must recognize same-sex marriages legally performed in other states or countries — the first ruling to put a dent in Missouri’s constitutional ban on gay marriage. Koster announced Monday he won’t appeal, stating that “Missouri’s future will be one of inclusion, not exclusion.”

Koster’s announcement came the same day the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to hear appeals of several rulings striking down bans on gay marriage in various states. Missouri was not one of the states covered by those rulings.

The Missouri Consolidated Health Care Plan cited Koster’s decision while announcing on its website it will begin covering same-sex spouses of state employees or retirees who have valid marriage certificates.

“It is good to see it happening so quickly,” said American Civil Liberties Union attorney Tony Rothert, who represented 10 married same-sex couples in the Jackson County court challenge.

The state health insurance plan covers 96,519 people, including current employees and retirees and their spouses and children. It’s not clear how many same-sex spouses and their dependents will seek coverage, but the health plan already has received some inquiries about it, said spokeswoman Mia Platz.

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