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Monday, June 17, 2024 | Back issues
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Judge OKs Same-Sex Marriages in Missouri

ST. LOUIS (CN) - Same-sex couples can get marriage licenses in Missouri, after a city judge's ruling Wednesday.

St. Louis Circuit Judge Rex M. Burlison ruled that denying gay couples the right to marry is unconstitutional.

St. Louis immediately began issuing marriage licenses to gay couples and St. Louis County told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that it would abide by the ruling, which advocates say applies statewide.

Attorney General Chris Koster appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court, but has not asked for a stay.

The ruling resulted from an act of defiance by the St. Louis City Recorder of Deeds Office, which issued marriage licenses to four gay couples in August. That led to Koster filing an injunction.

Burlison found that prohibiting gay marriages violates the equal protection and due process clauses of the 14th Amendment.

"Defendant has shown that Section 451.022 RSMo. and Article I, Section 33 of the Missouri Constitution lack a rational basis," Burlison wrote in a 15-page opinion. "This statute and constitutional amendment do not advance a legitimate government interest. Plaintiff's interest in providing uniformity and stability in having a standardized definition of marriage by creating a classification that disadvantages a group on the basis of sexual orientation is not a legitimate legislative end. Likewise, uniform prevention of inmate marriage and interracial marriage did not withstand constitutional scrutiny."

Koster, a Democrat who has publicly stated he believes in gay rights, said it is his duty to defend a 10-year-old state amendment that defined marriage as between a man and a woman.

"The constitutional challenge to Missouri's historically recognized right to define marriage must be presented to and resolved by the state's highest court," Koster said in a statement.

"Following decisions in Idaho and Alaska, the United States Supreme Court has refused to grant stays on identical facts. We will not seek a stay of this court's order when the United States Supreme Court has ruled none should be granted."

The decision was applauded by gay rights activists.

"This is a positive move forward for loving same-sex couples in the City of St. Louis," said Jeffrey Mittman, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri. "It is also a win for families throughout Missouri as another discriminatory obstacle is lowered."

It is the second major legal win for Missouri's gay couples in as many months. In October, a Kansas City judge ruled that Missouri must recognize marriages of gay couples from other states.

Koster declined to appeal that case, stating that Missouri is obligated to honor contracts entered into in other states.

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