OzarkFireDept

 

OZARK, Mo. — The Ozark Fire Department in southwest Missouri has been told that the state constitution won’t allow extending benefits to an employee who is in a same-sex marriage.

 

Last week, the Ozark Fire Department's board was poised to change its policy and offer same-sex benefits to Capt. Andi Mooneyham, whose out-of-state marriage to her partner is not recognized in Missouri.

 

According to the Department, three of the five fire board members supported changing the policy but tabled a vote until its next meeting on Sept. 2.

 

But earlier this week, the board's attorney, Todd Johnson, penned a letter stating ‘Missouri's constitution, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman, does not allow the policy change,’ The Springfield News-Leader reported.

 

LGBT advocates disagree with Johnson’s legal interpretation.

 

"We encourage the Ozark Fire Board to move forward in offering equal health care coverage to the brave men and women who protect us and their families, as many Missouri municipalities, universities, and businesses have already legally done for their employees,” said Stephanie Perkins, Deputy Director at PROMO, Missouri’s statewide LGBT advocacy organization.

 

“Equal treatment of employees and their families is an integral step to ending health disparities for the LGBT community and therefore the overall health and well-being of our entire community," Perkins continued.

 

Mooneyham stated on Wednesday that she plans to seek other legal opinions.

 

The proposed motion would have amended language defining a spouse to "any individuals who are lawfully married under any state law, including individuals married to a person of the same sex who are legally married in a state that recognizes such marriages, but who are domciled in a state that does not recognize such marriages."

 

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