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Supreme Court Ruling Means Same-Sex Marriage Now Legal In Missouri And Kansas

Matthew Long-Middleton

Marriage equality advocates in Missouri and Kansas rejoiced Friday as the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states are not allowed to place bans on unions by same-sex couples.

During a month known for marriages – and gay pride events – thehigh court ruled 5-4 that states must recognize unions between people of the same sex.

“It’s a great day,” said Doug Bonney, legal director of the ACLU of Kansas.

Couples who filed lawsuits in the two states, fighting the local governments for legal marriage status, said they could now move forward with their lives.

“We are ecstatic, not only for ourselves, but for all Missouri couples who will no longer have to wait to marry in their home state,” said Angela Curtis and Shannon McGinty, a lesbian couple who applied for a license in Jackson County in Kansas City.

“We are no longer in limbo and can set a date and complete our wedding plans.”

Marriage equality advocates said cases in both states on the legality of gay marriage bans were made moot by the high court's decision. In Missouri, Attorney General Chris Koster on Friday dropped appeals before the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals and the Missouri Supreme Court.

In Kansas, Gov. Sam Brownback, long a critic of gay marriage, left the door open, saying his office would review the high court's decision. Brownback, who wouldn't allow Kansas agencies to recognize same sex marriages despite a federal appellate court ruling overturning the state's ban, sided with states' rights.

"Activist courts should not overrule the people of this state, who have clearly supported the Kansas Constitution’s definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman," Brownback said.

Twitter lit up with the hashtag #lovewins and Facebook feeds were flooded with couples reposting pictures from their same-sex union ceremonies here or in other states.

“Ever since the wedding at Cana, Jesus taught us that the main thing and the plain thing was love,” said U.S. Rep Emanual Cleaver of Kansas City. “Today that is still true."

Jeffrey A. Mittman, executive director of the ACLU of Missouri, said the overwhelming change in public opinion was "astonishing," even to advocates. The most recent poll shows 57 percent of Americans favor same-sex marriage.

“Today’s decision makes marriage equality the law of the land," he said. "This is a day that will be noted in history books for Missouri’s same-sex couples, and all Americans, who had to wait to obtain a marriage license so they can marry in their home state.”

Two years to the day Friday, the court struck down the federal law that defined marriage as between a man and a woman, called the “Defense of Marriage Act,” the high court said marriage is a fundamental right in which same-sex couples must share. The court also said it would be a violation of equal protection, the Fourteenth Amendment, to extend that right only to heterosexual couples.

While many in Kansas and Missouri celebrated what they said was an historic day, others were not happy about the high court decision. Carla Brown, who was shopping at the Country Club Plaza, said she was disappointed.

"I believe that the marriage is between a man and woman. I would love to see a union [option] for gay and lesbian communities, I’m fine with that. But I don’t think it should be called marriage," Brown said.

The road to same-sex unions in Missouri and Kansas took many turns – and court decisions. Read KCUR’s timeline here.

KCUR will update this post as the day unfolds.

I’m a veteran investigative reporter who came up through newspapers and moved to public media. I want to give people a better understanding of the criminal justice system by focusing on its deeper issues, like institutional racism, the poverty-to-prison pipeline and police accountability. Today this beat is much different from how reporters worked it in the past. I’m telling stories about people who are building significant civil rights movements and redefining public safety. Email me at lowep@kcur.org.
Elle Moxley covered education for KCUR.
Cody Newill is part of KCUR's audience development team. Follow him on Twitter @CodyNewill or email him at cody@kcur.org.
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