A state judge has ruled Missouri's same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional, clearing the way for the Show-Me State to join 32 others in allowing gay and lesbian couples to legally wed.
"The Court finds and declares that 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," wrote St. Louis Circuit Judge Rex Burlison in an opinion issued Wednesday. He heard arguments in the case on Sept. 29.
Missourians approved the state's constitutional amendment banning same-sex nuptials with 71% of the vote in 2004. But in June, amid a wave of legal triumphs for marriage equality, the city of St. Louis issued marriage licenses to four same-sex couples, prompting the lawsuit.
Democratic Attorney General Chris Koster issued a statement shortly after Wednesday's decision, saying that his office had appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court. He added that he would not seek a stay of the ruling, since the U.S. Supreme Court refused to grant one under similar circumstances in Idaho and Alaska. (In truth, circumstances were actually different in Idaho and Alaska, which are both bound to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling in favor of marriage equality. Missouri, by contrast, is bound to the 8th Circuit, which hasn't ruled on the issue since 2006, when the appeals court upheld Nebraska’s sweeping ban on same-sex nuptials, civil unions, domestic partnerships, “or other similar same-sex relationships.”)
"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. "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."
Burlison's decision comes one day after a federal court in Kansas struck down that state's same-sex marriage ban. Newly-reelected Attorney General Derek Schmidt told the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that he would appeal, but his chances of winning are slim; the 10th Circuit has already struck down similar bans in Oklahoma and Utah.