Four same-sex couples were married June 25 in the St. Louis City Hall office of Mayor Francis G. Slay. Their marriage licenses were issued by the city’s recorder of deeds, Sharon Carpenter, at Slay’s request.
In response, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster filed a lawsuit June 26 to prevent the city from issuing any more same-sex marriage licenses until the issue is resolved in the courts. The mayor’s office has agreed that the city will comply.
The couples who were married are: John Durnell and Richard Eaton; Tod Martin and David Gray; Miranda Duschack and Karen “Mimo” Davis; and Bruce Yampolsky and Terry Garrett.
In a statement issued by Slay’s office, he said: “I did not do this lightly, or without a great deal of thought. The City counselor and a former Missouri Supreme Court justice wrote opinions to guide us. They wrote that the U.S. Constitution is the supreme law of the land. They wrote that if the U.S. Constitution requires something that the Missouri Constitution prohibits, we have a legal duty to abide by the U.S. Constitution. And the City counselor concluded that the U.S. Constitution requires marriage equality.”
A.J. Bockelman, executive director of PROMO, which lobbies for LGBT equality in Missouri, said, “I think it’s a very bold move by Mayor Francis Slay and recorder of deeds Sharon Carpenter to basically say, ‘Show Me Marriage.’ Four couples were married yesterday in a very moving ceremony. They were married in what they consider legal marriages based on their own counsel.”
“With the news of yesterday’s same-sex marriage in Missouri, the natural implications are what this will mean for Kansas City and other cities in Missouri,” Bockelman said. “I’m not totally sure exactly what will transpire from it. There are more actions coming up in the next week, and it’s too soon to say at this point.”
Bockelman and PROMO have been spearheading the fight for marriage equality in Missouri along with the ACLU, Human Rights Campaign, Equality Missouri and other LGBT and straight allies. A lawsuit was filed in February 2014 by the ACLU challenging Missouri to recognize legal marriages from other states, on behalf of eight same-sex couples, including one from Kansas City (Jim MacDonald and Andy Schuerman).
“What we’ve seen is this constant drip, drip, drip,” Bockelman said. “We know marriage equality treatment is a basic equality issue. Equal treatment under the law. And we have a couple of elected officials who have gotten to the point where they are tired of waiting and they’ve jumped the gun and gone ahead and issued licenses. It’s up to the court systems to make a decision.”
Asked for an interview with Kansas City Mayor Sly James or a statement on the St. Louis marriages, Joni Wickham, the mayor’s director of public affairs, responded by email: “Kansas City doesn’t have the same form of government as St. Louis, so unfortunately, Mayor James doesn’t have the same authority as Mayor Slay. However, Mayor James is very supportive of gay marriage and the LGBT community (he’s a member of the Mayors for Freedom to Marry).”
Wickham explained that in Missouri, marriage licenses are granted through county governments. “St Louis is an outlier because it technically doesn’t fall inside a county,” she said.
A message sent out on James’ Twitter account states: “4 those asking, StL & KC Govs are totally different. I do not have legal ability to issue marriage licenses. Would if I could #KansasCity.”
In 2004, Missouri voters approved a constitutional amendment stating that only marriages between a man and a woman would be valid and recognized in the state.
This story is developing. Check back for updates.
Photo courtesy of Colin Murphy of Boom Magazine