ST. LOUIS, Mo. – St. Louis Mayor Francis G. Slay announced Thursday that marriage licenses were issued to four same-sex couples by St. Louis Recorder of Deeds Sharon Carpenter on Wednesday evening, coinciding with the one year anniversary of the Defense of Marriage Act being struck down.
The four couples were then married at City Hall as St. Louis mounts a direct challenge to the state’s same-sex marriage ban.
“St. Louis is a city that doesn’t tolerate discrimination,” said Slay, standing beside the couples. “We are sending a message on what’s right, and I can’t think of anything more right than this.”
The ceremonies were performed in Mayor Slay’s office and officiated by Municipal Judge Joseph Murphy. Carpenter issued the marriage licenses to the couples, despite Missouri’s 2004 constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.
“For years I contemplated taking this action, but the the legal climate was never right to take action and take a stand,” said Carpenter. “However, that all changed with the United States Supreme Court decision to rule all citizens have the right to marry under the law.”
“My generation failed their neighbors by not protecting their rights,” she said. “We must allow ourselves to correct this mistake. We must set an example for the next generation. We can change, we can do better.”
The couples, all St. Louis residents, have been eagerly awaiting Missouri to legally recognize their relationships.
Richard Eaton and John Durnell, together for 39 years, were the first couple to be married. Tod Martin and David Gray; Miranda Duschack and Mima Davis; and Bruce Yampolsky and Terry Garrett were then married one by one in Room 200.
“This is a bold move by the Recorder of Deeds, Sharon Carpenter and Mayor Francis Slay,” said A.J. Bockelman, Executive Director of PROMO, Missouri’s statewide LGBT advocacy organization. “With the wave of state after state moving forward on marriage, their move shows that Missouri may not have been the first, but we will certainly not be the last to recognize marriage.”
“We extend a resounding thank you today to these elected officials and the couples involved, all of whom exhibited profiles in courage by taking this action. Effectively they stood together and said it is time to ‘Show Me Marriage,’” said Bockelman.
Even with official marriage documents from the city, the validity of the couples’ marriages will be in question. A lawsuit calling for the recognition of the marriages is expected to be filed as early as Thursday morning.
Attorney General Chris Koster went to court Thursday seeking to stop the marriages.
St. Louis Circuit Judge Rex Burlison denied a temporary restraining order but said he will consider whether to grant an injunction at a later date.
Burlison said St. Louis officials have agreed not to issue more marriage licenses to same-sex couples at this time and would do so in the future only after notifying the court and attorney general’s office.
Missouri’s Amendment 2, which defines marriage in Missouri as between one man and one woman, was approved by 71 percent of voters in August 2004.
Developing story. This report will be updated.