Four same-sex couples received marriage licenses and exchanged vows in the St. Louis mayor's office Wednesday, setting up a legal challenge to Missouri's ban on same-sex marriage.
The couples married were Bruce Yampolsky and Terry Garrett, David Gray and Tod Martin, John Durnell and Richard Eaton, and Miranda Duschack and Karen Davis. Municipal Judge Joseph Murphy and clergy members officiated and Recorder of Deeds Sharon Quigley Carpenter signed the licenses as Mayor Francis Slay looked on, smiling and taking pictures. “It makes me proud as a citizen and as a mayor,” Slay told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Whether the marriages are valid or not remains to be seen, as Missouri voters in 2004 amended the state's constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage. City attorney Winston E. Calvert says he believes this measure violates the U.S. Constitution, a position that several federal courts have taken in striking down similar bans, and he issued a legal opinion that Carpenter could issue the licenses “in good faith.”
But this morning Missouri attorney general Chris Koster filed suit in St. Louis Circuit Court to prevent the city from issuing any more licenses to same-sex couples, and city officials agreed they would not to do so without notifying the court and the attorney general's office, the Associated Press reports. Koster, a Democrat who plans to run for governor in 2016, says he personally supports marriage equality but must do his duty to enforce state law. The current governor, Jay Nixon, has said he also supports equal marriage rights but thinks the ban should be repealed by voters rather than through the court system. The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit in February seeking marriage recognition for Missouri same-sex couples who were wed in other states.
Mayor Slay said he plans to fight for marriage equality to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary. “Make no mistake about it, I, and all of us standing here, are doing this to force the issue and to get the law settled for everyone who wants to get married in the state of Missouri,” he said at the ceremony, according to the Post-Dispatch. “If we weren’t doing this, no other city in Missouri would.”
Davis and Duschack have been together four years; Martin and Gray, 23 years; Yampolsky and Garrett, 30 years; and Eaton and Durrell, 39 years. “It’s a big day for us, but a bigger day for other people in the community,” Eaton told the Post-Dispatch.
On this page and the next, see photos via Facebook.com/PROMOmissouri.