Judge in St. Louis rules Missouri same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional

April Dawn Breeden, left, places a ring on the finger of her long-time partner Crystal Peairs, right, as they are married by Rev. Katie Hotze-Wilton, Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2014, at City Hall in St. Louis. Jeff Roberson, AP

April Dawn Breeden, left, places a ring on the finger of her long-time partner Crystal Peairs, right, as they are married by Rev. Katie Hotze-Wilton, Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2014, at City Hall in St. Louis. Jeff Roberson, AP

April Dawn Breeden, left, places a ring on the finger of her long-time partner Crystal Peairs, right, as they are married by Rev. Katie Hotze-Wilton, Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2014, at City Hall in St. Louis.

ST. LOUIS, Mo. — A judge in St. Louis on Wednesday ruled that Missouri‘s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, setting off a rush among some same-sex couples to apply for marriage licenses.

St. Louis Circuit Judge Rex Burlison said in a written ruling that Missouri’s measure recognizing marriage only between a man and woman violates the due process and equal protection rights of the U.S. Constitution.

The decision — which applies only in the city of St. Louis where Burlison has jurisdiction — mirrored ones handed down recently in several other states.

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster immediately appealed the ruling to the state Supreme Court, saying the constitutional challenge “must be presented to and resolved” at that level. But he said that his office wouldn’t seek a stay of the order, noting that the U.S. Supreme Court refused to grant stays after same-sex marriage decisions in Idaho and Alaska.

Koster previously chose not to appeal a ruling requiring Missouri to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.

Article continues below

After hearing about Wednesday’s ruling, Kelley Harris, 35, and Kelly Barnard, 36, drove to St. Louis City Hall to apply for a marriage license. They called a photographer to record the event and planned to invite friends to attend an impromptu ceremony at a local park. The couple had held an unofficial wedding ceremony in 2003.

“We’ve already been living as a married couple – we have children, we have family – so it would be nice to have the legal backing,” said Harris, accompanied by her mother and the couple’s suit-clad 4-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter.

By 5 p.m., the city had issued marriage licenses to four lesbian couples, including Harris and Barnard. April Breeden and Crystal Peairs, both 38, held a brief ceremony on the marble steps of the City Hall rotunda after obtaining their license.

“Time is of the essence,” Peairs said. “We wanted to make sure we got it taken care of today.”

This Story Filed Under

Comments