[JURIST] St. Louis Circuit Judge Rex Burlison [official website] ruled Wednesday that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage [JURIST backgrounder] is unconstitutional. The St. Louis Circuit judge ruled that the Missouri Constitution [PDF] violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment [text] of the US Constitution [text]. In his opinion, [text, PDF] Burlison rejected the state’s uniform definition of marriage by stating, “A uniform definition of marriage could be drafted in a way that does not disadvantage people on the basis of sexual orientation and assuring equal protection for same-sex couples does not diminish the liberty and rights of others.” He also rejected the state’s interest in “providing uniformity and stability” and agreed that marrying is a fundamental right no matter the sex. Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster [official website] has already appealed [press release] the decision to the Missouri Supreme Court [official website], but has not asked for a stay. In the latest victory for same-sex marriage rights in Missouri, supporters contend they are one step closer to lowering discriminatory hurtles. However, the ruling applies to St. Louis only, and not the state of Missouri.
The same-sex marriage landscape changed significantly since June 13, when the US Supreme Court [official website] struck down [JURIST report] a key part of the Defense of Marriage Act [pdf]. The ruling allowed same-sex couples to receive the same federal benefits as other married couples. Last month the US Supreme Court refused to hear appeals from five states seeking to preserve their same-sex marriage bans, effectively legalizing same-sex marriage [JURIST report] in Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia, Wisconsin and Indiana. A US District Court judge of Kansas ruled [JURIST report] Wednesday that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. Freedom to Marry’s [official website] National Campaign Director Marc Solomon said [press release], “Today’s ruling adds to the powerful momentum of victories from a bipartisan array of federal and state judges as we work to secure the freedom to marry nationwide.” Same-sex couples have the freedom to marry in 32 states and Washington, D.C.