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Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster announced Monday that he would not appeal last week’s circuit court judgment in Barrier v. Vasterling ruling that Missouri must recognize same-sex marriages legally performed in other states.

 

The statement came on the heels of the U.S. Supreme Court’s announcement that it would not accept for review any of the seven appeals on same-sex marriage bans from five states. The action lifted existing stays on the decisions essentially paving the way for court rulings to add 11 more states to the 19 which already have marriage equality. Same-sex marriages have already begun in several of the states affected by today’s decision.

 

“At a time when Missouri is competing to attract the nation's premier businesses and most talented employees, we should not demand that certain surrender their marriage licenses in order to live and work among us,” said Koster. “Missouri's future will be one of inclusion, not exclusion."

 

According to PROMO, Missouri’s statewide LGBT advocacy organization, over 2,000 Missourians contacted the Attorney General’s office urging him not to appeal the Barrier decision.

 

“This is a historic moment for Missouri,” said A.J. Bockelman, Executive Director of PROMO. “We commend Attorney General Chris Koster for making a standing on the right side of history, and thank him for his courageous words."

 

While yesterday’s SCOTUS announcement does not legally impact the remaining 20 states, including Missouri, court watchers stress it’s something future courts must ponder when deciding the fate of similar bans.

 

“That’s a fairly strong signal that the federal judges that have ruled on this have been getting it right all along,” POLITICO reports former Solicitor General Ted Olson saying of the Supreme Court’s refusal to take up the same-sex marriage cases brought to it in recent months. “If I was a federal judge, I would read this decision as saying that the opponents, if they still exist, on the Supreme Court of marriage equality have sort of decided that they don’t want to get into this.”

 

St. Louis residents Ed Reggi and his husband Scott Emanuel were married in Iowa in 2009, along with 16 other gay and lesbian couples from Missouri. The duo chartered a bus shortly after it became legal there and have since repeated the process over a dozen times ferrying over 200 couples to Iowa City to tie the knot.

 
“Today, justice has helped erase part of the discrimination written into our Missouri Constitution back in 2004,” said Reggi, who along Emanuel founded Show Me No Hate, a grassroots marriage equality organization. “Full equality will come when same-sex couples can legally marry inside the borders of the Show Me State without leaving. That day cannot come soon enough.”

 

“For SCOTUS, this meant they allowed the federal courts rulings to stand in favor of full marriage equality,” Reggi continued. “And Attorney General Koster took a page from our history, and quoted his actions on federalism, ‘a system that empowers Missouri to set policy for itself, but also obligates us to honor contracts entered into in other states.’ For Scott, myself and the other 200 couples we transported to Iowa to obtain a legal civil marriage license, this has always been a federal issue.”

 

Prominent constitutional law scholar Laurence Tribe of Harvard University, who argued against bans on sodomy in the 1986 Bowers v. Hardwick case, told Keen News Service he thought there was only a 50-50 chance SCOTUS would have granted one of the existing appeals.

 

“As soon as a solid split emerges, I fully expect the Court to grant cert,” said Tribe. “I’d watch the Sixth Circuit if I were you.”

 

A three-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit heard oral arguments this summer in six lawsuits from four states: Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee. The panel has yet to rule, but Keen reports questions from two of the three judges during the argument "gave repeated voice to various justifications" for the bans.

 

While it is possible that SCOTUS will not have to rule due to a patchwork of decisions by the federal appeals courts embracing marriage equality, the scenario is not ideal. The full bench of any of the circuits could reverse earlier rulings and allow states to deny same-sex marriage licenses.

 

U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg recently told a crowd at the University of Minnesota Law School, "When all the courts of appeals are in agreement there is no need for us to rush to step in" but that the question of same-sex marriage will come before the court “sooner or later.”

 

There are presently two other court cases challenging Missouri’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, including Missouri v. Sharon Quigley Carpenter, which was heard on Sept. 29.

 

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