St. Louis City Issues First Marriage Licenses to Same Sex Couples

On behalf of The Marks Law Firm, L.L.C. posted in Same Sex Marriage on Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Last week, the City of St. Louis made history, issuing the first ever marriage licenses to four same-sex couples. Previously, no clerk of any county in Missouri had issued a marriage license to a same-sex couple. Mayor Francis Slay felt he could no longer deny licenses to same-sex couples based on the evolution of the law around the country.

The door on issuing the licenses quickly shut the next day, as Attorney General Chris Koster filed an injunction to prevent the clerk’s office from issuing any more marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Litigation that will ultimately lead to the Missouri Supreme Court will decide whether the four licenses are valid and, more broadly, whether Missouri can continue to ban same-sex marriage.

When Mayor Slay decided to allow the four marriage licenses to issue, he did not actually have the legal authority to do so. The Missouri Constitution and several state statutes specifically prohibit the issuance of a license for same-sex couples. Other couples have sought marriage licenses in other counties in Missouri and, after being denied a license, filed suit in state and federal court. It is likely that these various state suits, including the one filed by the Attorney General, will be consolidated and considered by the Missouri Supreme Court.

What will the Missouri Supreme Court do?

With regard to cases where Missouri has denied same-sex couples state benefits, those cases seem likely to succeed, as other states have found such action unconstitutional based on the Supreme Court ruling last year in Windsor.

With regard to an outright ban on same-sex marriage, every federal and state court to consider the issue has ruled the ban unconstitutional based on Windsor and Lawrence. Though the opposition to same-sex marriage is quite strong in Missouri, the law seems clear – the denial of a marriage license purely on sexual orientation violates both the Equal Protection Clause and the fundamental right to marry in the Due Process Clause.

Mayor Slay took a bold and brave step in the battle for marriage equality; it will likely take at least a year to determine the ultimate fate of the legal recognition of same-sex marriage in Missouri. We will continue to bring updates to our blog.

If you have questions about same-sex marriage, contact us – we can help.