A state judge has declared Missouri's ban on same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional, clearing the way for same-sex couples to apply for marriage licenses today, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
St. Louis Circuit Judge Rex Burlison's ruling marks the 48th pro-equality decision from a state or federal court since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act in its landmark June 2013 ruling in Windsor v. U.S.
"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," Burlison wrote.
Like nearly every other court that has struck down state marriage bans, Burlinson determined that the state's decade-old voter-approved prohibition on same-sex marriage violates the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the U.S. Constitution.
Late last month, another state judge ruled that Missouri's refusal to recognize legal same-sex marriages performed in other states was unlawful and ordered the state to begin recognizing same-sex marriages performed in states where such unions are already legal.
Missouri attorney general Chris Koster, a Democrat who said he personally supports marriage equality, has said he won't appeal the recognition ruling, stating that "Missouri's future will be one of inclusion, not exclusion."
It's unclear whether Koster plans to appeal today's ruling, though LGBT advocates hope the state Supreme Court will make a final decision on the issue soon, according to the Post-Dispatch.
It's similarly unclear whether counties statewide are prepared to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, though it's likely that St. Louis will do so, as four same-sex couples were married in the mayor's office in June, defying the state's ban on same-sex marriage. St. Louis mayor Francis Slay has been outspoken in his support for marriage equality, pledging to take the issue 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," Slay said at the June weddings held in his office. "If we weren't doing this, no other city in Missouri would."
Missouri's current governor, Jay Nixon, has said he also supports equal marriage rights but thinks the ban should be repealed by voters rather than through the court system. Nixon will be up for reelection in 2016.