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Saint Louis issues marriage licenses to gay couples, vows to fight state ban


Saint Louis, Mo. — Saying they would be willing to take the fight all the way to the United States Supreme Court if necessary, Saint Louis city officials issued marriage licenses for 4 gay couples last night, igniting an all-but-certain legal battle with the State of Missouri’s over its constitutional ban of gay marriages.

Four couples, including Sen. Claire McCaskill’s deputy chief of staff, Tod Martin, and his longtime partner were issued marriage licenses in Mayor Francis Slay’s office last night. Municipal Judge Joseph Murphy presided over the ceremonies and Recorder of Deeds Sharon Quigley Carpenter signed the licenses.

Tod Martin and David Gray, one of the couples
Tod Martin and David Gray, one of the couples

The City, which also performs independent functions as a county and independent municipality, chose to voluntarily halt issuing licenses for more gay couples, citing the coming court battle which will likely order their suspension.

Attorney General Chris Koster, tasked with defending the state’s constitutional ban in court, has indicated he will seek a temporary restraining order in Court and continue to move forward with a legal challenge, despite his personal support for marriage equality.

“While I personally support the goal of marriage equality, my duty as Attorney General is to defend the laws of the state of Missouri,” Koster said in a statement. “While many people in Missouri have changed their minds regarding marriage equality, Missourians have yet to change their constitution.”

Slay and representatives from PROMO, the state’s largest LGBT organization, held the ceremony last night for a specific reason: it was the one year anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court striking down the Defense of Marriage Act.

“We did not decide to do this lightly,” Slay said.  “We did not do it without a great deal of thought and legal research.”

Slay, a longtime outspoken advocate for LGBT rights, sought the legal counsel of former Missouri Supreme Court Justice Michael Wolff and City Counselor Winston Calvert to create a “clear, direct legal challenge” to the state’s ban.

Slay has long prided himself as a supporter of the LGBT community. A frequent participant in the annual St. Louis Pride Parade, Slay also lent his voice to the “NO H8” campaign and in 2009 voted for the U.S. Conference of Mayors to support marriage equality.

“St. Louis is a city that doesn’t tolerate discrimination,” Slay said. “We are sending a message on what’s right, and I can’t think of anything more right than this.”