St. Louis Judge Favors Same-Sex Marriage; Kansas Supreme Court Delays Hearing

Nov 5, 2014

Couples line up to be married at St. Louis City Hall on Wednesday afternoon.
Credit Jason Rosenbaum / St. Louis Public Radio

A St. Louis City circuit court judge ruled Wednesday that Missouri's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.

"The Court recognizes that the freedom to marry is a fundamental right and liberty deeply rooted in the history of the United States," St. Louis Circuit Judge Rex Burlison said in his ruling. 

By late Wednesday afternoon, several same-sex couples were at St. Louis City Hall getting their marriage licenses, according to St. Louis Public Radio.

Across the state, a Jackson County attorney said the ruling is limited to St. Louis, so licenses will not be issued in Kansas City.

"In Jackson County the issue of whether or not the recorder of deeds of Jackson County can issue a marriage license to same sex couples is the issue in Lawson v. Kelly, a case pending in the United States District Court of Western Missouri," Jackson County Counselor Stephen Nixon said in a statement.

The judge’s ruling, the statement said, will determine if Jackson County can issue a marriage licenses to same sex couples.

"We are looking forward to that guidance and will implement the directive of the Court promptly," Nixon said.

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, meanwhile, said that his office would appeal the St. Louis ruling to the Missouri Supreme Court, but would not issue a stay that would prevent couples from getting marriage licenses.

"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."

In June, the St. Louis recorder of deeds issued marriage licenses to four couples, challenging the state's constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage.

Kansas update

In Kansas, a same-sex marriage hearing set for Thursday before the state Supreme Court has been postponed.

The high court announced Wednesday that it will wait for the state’s appeal of a federal court decision on Tuesday, in which U.S. District Judge Daniel D. Crabtree ruled the Kansas ban is unconstitutional.

This case stems from a Johnson County judge’s order allowing the issuing of same-sex marriage licenses, which Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt halted when he filed the case with the high court.

The constitutional questions in both the state and federal cases are similar, the Kansas high court wrote, “and if we were to reach the opposite conclusion from the federal court – uphold the ban, not block it – the court’s conflicting judgments would inject additional uncertainty into the debate of the validity of Kansas’s same-sex marriage ban.”

The court’s order continues an earlier stay and set a Nov. 15 deadline to file briefs.

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