KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A federal judge issued a ruling today saying that Missouri’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional just one day after a local circuit judge reached an almost identical ruling in St. Louis.
“This is an incredible, historic day for Missouri,” said AJ Bockelman, Executive Director of PROMO, the state’s largest LGBT advocacy organization. “Missouri is now a state where all couples have the freedom to marry the person the love right in their home state.”
U.S. District Court Judge Otrie D. Smith’s ruling today makes Missouri the 34th state with legal access to marriage for same-sex couples and makes Missouri poised for at least one more court battle over it’s 2004 constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman.
Attorney General Chris Koster, a Democrat, announced his office would be appealing the ruling to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. Thus far, the 4th, 7th, 9th and 10th Circuits have all overturned bans on same sex marriages. Yesterday the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals became the first to uphold a ban on same sex marriages, setting up a likely showdown before the Supreme Court.
The case is the broadest ruling over Missouri’s restrictions on same-sex marriage to come in the last few weeks. Early in October, a separate Kansas City court ruled that Missouri must recognize same-sex marriages legally performed in other states. Only days ago, circuit court judge in St. Louis, Rex Burlison, found Missouri’s ban on same-sex marriages unconstitutional after city officials deliberately violated the ban to provoke a court battle.
Earlier this year, Koster signed a letter with more than a dozen Attorneys General asking the Supreme Court to rule on the constitutionality of same-sex marriage bans once and for all in order to put to rest the dozens of court battles across the country. With Thursday’s decision from the 6th Circuit — which broke from all other rulings from appeals courts — Supreme Court intervention becomes more likely. Koster has promised to appeal both to the appellate court system as well as the Missouri Supreme Court. While Koster has repeatedly stated his public support for gay marriage, he says it’s his duty at the state’s leading attorney to defend the laws on the books.
Collin Reischman was the Managing Editor for The Missouri Times, and a graduate of Webster University with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism.