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Judge Tosses Missouri Same-Sex Marriage Ban

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (CN) - A federal judge struck down a 2004 Amendment to Missouri's Constitution defining marriage as only between a man and a woman on Friday, paving the way for gay marriage in the traditionally conservative state.

U.S. District Court Judge Ortrie D. Smith ruled the amendment violates gay couple's right to due process and equal protection under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

"The State's power to dictate who can and cannot be married is limited to the promotion of certain interests, none of which are served by the limitation advanced," Smith wrote in an 18-page order. "Of course, the question is not whether the restriction satisfies the rational basis test; the Court has held the restriction burdens a fundamental right so it is subject to strict scrutiny. This requires the State to demonstrate the restriction is narrowly tailored to advance a compelling state interest - but the only interest advances is not compelling and the restriction is not narrowly tailored to that interest."

The case stemmed from two gay couples who were denied a marriage license from the Jackson County (Mo.) Recorder of Deeds, citing the 2004 Amendment. As part of the order, Smith issued an injunction prohibiting the Jackson County Recorder of Deeds from continuing to deny the marriage licenses.

Angela Curtis and Shannon McGinty were one of the two gay couples who filed the lawsuit after being rejected for a marriage license.

"It was important to us to wait for full marriage equality where we could celebrate with all of our family and friends in the state where we live," McGinty said in a statement.

It is the second big courtroom win this week for gay activists in Missouri. On Wednesday, a St. Louis City Circuit judge ruled issued a similar ruling on behalf of four gay couples in St. Louis.

The rulings allow Missouri to join the 32 other states and the District of Columbia who issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

"Today's ruling affirms what the ACLU has always proclaimed-same-sex couples and their families should be treated just like any other loving family," said Jeffrey Mittman, executive director of the ACLU of Missouri, in a statement. "Missouri will no longer categorically exclude gay men and lesbians from the institution of marriage-marriage is marriage, regardless of your sexual orientation."

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