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Judge Rules Missouri's Ban On Same-Sex Marriage Is Unconstitutional; Couples Step Up In St. Louis

Couples line up to be married at St. Louis City Hall on November 5, 2014.
Couples line up to be married at St. Louis City Hall on November 5, 2014.
Couples line up to be married at St. Louis City Hall on November 5, 2014.
Credit Jason Rosenbaum/St. Louis Public Radio
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Couples line up to be married at St. Louis City Hall on November 5, 2014.

(Will be updated.)

A judge in St. Louis has ruled that Missouri's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. Already several same-sex couples have made their way to City Hall to get their marriage licenses.

"The court recognizes that the freedom to marry is a fundamental right and liberty deeply rooted in the history of the United States,"St. Louis Circuit Judge RexBurlison said in his ruling Wednesday. He heard arguments in the case on Sept. 29.

The case came about after the city of St. Louis issued marriage licenses in June to four same-sex couples, defying the state's 2004 constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage. Assistant Attorney General Jeremiah Morgan argued that 71 percent ofMissouriansvoted for the referendum defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

"[Missouri] contends that it has a compelling state interest in providing uniformity and stability by providing a standardized definition of marriage," Burlison wrote. "[Missouri] is without controlling precedent to support this argument, relying on mere speculation of harm that does not constitute a compelling state interest."

"Any same sex couple that satisfies all the requirements for marriage under Missouri law, other than being of different sexes, is legally entitled to a marriage license," Burlison wrote.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri, which handled the lawsuit for the same-sex couples,  praised Wednesday's ruling.

"With our marriage recognition case win last month, and today’s win for the city of St. Louis to issue marriage licenses, Missouri is finally joining the mainstream by allowing loving couples to formalize their commitment with marriage,” said Tony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU of Missouri.

Attorney General Chris Koster said that he has appealed the ruling to the Missouri Supreme Court.

"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. But he also added that his office would not seek a stay of the court's order while the Missouri Supreme Court weighs the case:

But @Koster4Missouri is not issuing a stay. So while appeal is before Mo Supreme Court, he will not stop marriage licenses from being issued— Camille Phillips (@cmpcamille) November 5, 2014

Maggie Crane, a spokesperson for St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay also said that marriage licenses would also be issued to same-sex couples by St. Louis County:

Just heard word that St. Louis County will follow the City's lead and also issue marriage licenses to same sex couples! #showmemarriage— Maggie Crane (@newsformaggie) November 5, 2014

Here are some of the early reactions to the news on Twitter:

"If you're happy and you know it, Get Married!" Hooray! #showmemarriage #stl— Sara Wessels (@Seoulyearth) November 5, 2014

Cole County Recorder of Deeds staff looked at me funny when I asked about same-sex marriage. Turns out I broke the ruling news to them.— Claire Boston (@claireeboston) November 5, 2014

City Hall is a great place for a wedding. And today's a great day for one. pic.twitter.com/Lf7kEfAbgI— Winston Calvert (@wcalvert) November 5, 2014

While yesterday's midterm election results were a major setback for #LGBT progress, our pursuit for equality is more important than ever.— Ben Luedloff (@BenLuedloff) November 5, 2014

When I came out a decade ago, I never thought Missouri would have same-sex marriages quite this soon! #showmemarriage #gaymarriage #noh8— Alison Green (@stlbizagreen) November 5, 2014

House GOP critical of today’s same-sex marriage ruling. Broadly, @johndiehljr says, “The AG needs to defend the constitution of the state.”— Eli Yokley (@eyokley) November 5, 2014

I never would have guessed that this would happen @PROMOMissouri -> Go get married #STL #LGBT #showmemarriage— Andrew Shaughnessy (@andrewshag) November 5, 2014

St. Louis City is now issuing #marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Wonderful news! #Breaking #LGBT #Equality #ShowMeMarriage— Rachel Brandt (@RachelBrandt) November 5, 2014

The #LGBT community of #STL has a lot to celebrate today. A #marriageequality victory party is definitely in order! pic.twitter.com/mtgvtq0BQd— Lewis E. Reed (@PresReed) November 5, 2014

Couples arriving at #STL city hall for same sex marriage licenses b4 office closes @ 5pm #ksdk #showmemarriage pic.twitter.com/WG5xvmsrvx— Casey Nolen KSDK (@CaseyNolen) November 5, 2014

I'm a straight guy. A white guy. A guy with strong opinions. But that doesn't mean I have to be a bigot.— Sean Jordan (@seanjjordan) November 5, 2014

Gay marriage is finally legal in Saint Louis while businesses in #Ferguson board up their windows. 314 is a roller coaster these days.— Bryan Sutter (@IShotGuyDebord) November 5, 2014

No #gaymarriage licenses in Kansas City, Mo. "Judge Burlison’s Judgment is limited to St. Louis City," says Jackson County statement.— PeggyLowe (@peggyllowe) November 5, 2014

Follow Chris McDaniel on Twitter@csmcdaniel

Copyright 2014 St. Louis Public Radio

Chris McDaniel started at St. Louis Public Radio as a political reporter, predominantly covering the race between Senator Claire McCaskill and Congressman Todd Akin. Before coming to St. Louis, Chris worked at NPR stations in Louisville, Kentucky and Columbia, Missouri, and his work has been broadcast on NPR’s national newscasts. He is a proud graduate of the University of Missouri, where he studied journalism and political science. He is also the winner of the 2011 PAX East Super Smash Bros. Tournament. Chris enjoys dogs, anything by Cormac McCarthy, and listeners like you.
Kelsey Proud is a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, where she earned a Convergence (Multimedia) Journalism degree. She has worked at PBS Interactive in Washington, D.C., MSN UK News in London and is a social media enthusiast. Kelsey feels journalism is truly a public service and hopes her work enhances community and reaches those who need information most. Though she's "from" Chicago, Kelsey has also lived in several different regions of the United States, including periods of time in North Carolina, Ohio, New Mexico and Illinois. Her extended family has roots in Boone and Audrain counties in Missouri, too. She is a wannabe chef and globe trekker, former competitive golfer and band-ie (trumpet), and honorary Missourian.