A Missouri state judge ruled Wednesday that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, ordering the St. Louis Recorder of Deeds to begin issuing licenses to same-sex couples.
St. Louis Circuit Judge Rex Burlison, an appointee of Gov. Jay Nixon (D), found 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.” Jeff Rainford, Chief of Status for St. Louis, indicated on Twitter that the city “will do so immediately.”
In his opinion, Burlison rejected the state’s interest in a uniform definition of marriage, explaining that a definition could be established that “does not disadvantage people on the basis of sexual orientation.” He also dismissed the argument that same-sex marriage is somehow different than marriage, because “fundamental rights are not dependent on the person seeking to exercise the right.”
This is the second ruling against Missouri’s ban in as many months. Last month, a Kansas City judge ruled that the state must recognize same-sex marriage licenses from other states. Burlison’s ruling takes it a step farther, allowing couples to begin marrying within the state immediately.
Attorney General Chris Koster (D) supports marriage equality, but has been defending Missouri’s ban, which he believes is his legal responsibility. He did not appeal the out-of-state recognition decisions, and said Wednesday that “Missouri’s future will be one of inclusion, not exclusion.” Some proponents believe, however, he may appeal this ruling to the Missouri Supreme Court.
Missouri becomes the 33rd marriage equality state, beating out Kansas, where a federal judge overturned the state’s ban Tuesday but stayed the ruling for a week.