ST. LOUIS — With the legality of gay marriage in Missouri in judicial limbo, more than 3,000 residents are asking the state to drop its appeal of a federal ruling that overturns its ban on same-sex unions.
Several members of the Show-Me Marriage coalition delivered 3,100 petitions Wednesday to Attorney General Chris Koster's St. Louis office. They want Koster to drop the legal challenge to a federal judge's ruling last week that found a 2004 Missouri constitutional amendment barring gay marriage violated the U.S. Constitution.
"We can't leave gay and lesbian couples with so much uncertainty," said A.J. Bockelman, executive director of the statewide advocacy group PROMO. "If the federal decision is not appealed, Missouri will have marriage recognition once and for all."
The federal ruling came two days after a similar decision by a state judge in St. Louis. Koster has said he personally supports gay marriage but is pursuing the appeals at both the state and federal levels to clarify the legal uncertainty. A Koster spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
The marriage coalition's representatives included Lilly Leyh and Sadie Pierce, the first same-sex couple to receive a marriage license in the city of St. Louis following Circuit Judge Rex Burlison's Nov. 5 ruling. St. Louis Recorder of Deeds Jennifer Florida said her office had issued 67 same-sex marriage licenses by Wednesday morning. The city issued four licenses to gay and lesbian couples in June to intentionally trigger the legal challenge.
St. Louis County reported issuing 30 same-sex licenses through Tuesday, while Jackson County — which began issuing same-sex marriage licenses following U.S. District Judge Ortrie R. Smith's Nov. 7 ruling — issued 60 such licenses to Kansas City-area couples in the subsequent two business days. The office was closed on Tuesday for Veterans Day.
Officials in Missouri's remaining 111 counties have opted to not issue same-sex licenses pending resolution of the legal challenges.
Adding to the legal uncertainty, a federal appeals court in Cincinnati on Thursday upheld anti-gay marriage laws in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee, a decision that ran counter to a string of recent courtroom victories for gay marriage supporters and set up the prospect of Supreme Court review.
Missouri's constitutional amendment barring gay marriage was approved by voters in 2004 with about 70 percent support. Missouri was the first state to adopt a constitutional ban following a decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Court permitting gay marriage. Gay marriage is legal in 32 states and the District of Columbia.
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