After the country sobered up following the midterm elections, the courts decided to add fuel back to the fire and decide on some critical marriage equality cases.
The day after the election, a state judge in Missouri overtunred the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. St. Louis Circuit Judge Rex Burlison said in a written ruling that Missouri’s measure recognizing marriage only between a man and woman violates the due process and equal protection rights of the U.S. Constitution.
Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster immediately appealed the ruling to the Missouri Supreme Court, but he said that his office wouldn’t seek a stay of the order, noting that the U.S. Supreme Court refused to grant stays after same-sex marriage decisions in Idaho and Alaska. The decision not to stay the ruling meant that couples in St Louis County could immediately apply for marriage licenses in the Show Me State.
The ruling ran counter to a remarkably rapid string of victories for the gay rights movement over the past few months that have now made same-sex marriage legal in at least 30 states. More than 20 court victories for supporters of same-sex marriage have been handed down since the Supreme Court struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act last year, including decisions by the 4th, 7th, 9th, and 10th Circuit Courts. Just last month, the Supreme Court surprisingly turned away appeals from five states seeking to uphold their same-sex marriage bans.
The decision by the 6th Circuit Court undoubtedly mounts increased pressure on the Supreme Court to act on the issue of marriage equality. Judge Martha Craig Daughtrey suggested as much in her dissenting opinion, where she blasted her colleagues, saying their majority opinion failed to address the issues of whether a state constitution’s ban on same-sex marriage violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. Daughtrey wrote:
Instead of recognizing the plaintiffs as persons, suffering actual harm as a result of being denied the right to marry where they reside or the right to have their valid marriages recognized there, my colleagues view the plaintiffs as social activists who have somehow stumbled into federal court, inadvisably, when they should be out campaigning to win ‘the hearts and minds’ of Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee voters to their cause.
But these plaintiffs are not political zealots trying to push reform on their fellow citizens; they are committed same-sex couples, many of them heading up de facto families, who want to achieve equal status … with their married neighbors, friends, and coworkers, to be accepted as contributing members of their social and religious communities, and to be welcomed as fully legitimate parents at their children’s schools. They seek to do this by virtue of exercising a civil right that most of us take for granted — the right to marry.
She added that it was “ironic that irresponsible, unmarried, opposite-sex couples in the Sixth Circuit who produce unwanted offspring must be ‘channeled’ into marriage and thus rewarded with its many psychological and financial benefits, while same-sex couples who become model parents are punished for their responsible behavior by being denied the right to marry.”