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Judge Rules Missouri Gay Marriage Ban Unconstitutional

A Missouri judge ruled on Wednesday that the state’s gay marriage ban was unconstitutional and ordered registrars in St. Louis to begin issuing licenses to same-sex couples who want to get married.

The case was brought by the state against a St. Louis registrar after she issued licenses to gay couples in June. "Fundamental rights are not dependent on the person seeking to exercise the right," St. Louis Circuit Judge Rex M. Burlinson wrote in his decision.

Attorney General Chris Koster appealed the decision to the state Supreme Court, but he is not asking for a stay of the judge’s order and couples rushed to get married Wednesday.

After hearing about Wednesday's ruling, Kelley Harris, 35, and Kelly Barnard, 36, drove to St. Louis City Hall to apply for a marriage license. They called a photographer to record the event and planned to invite friends to attend an impromptu ceremony at a local park. The couple had held an unofficial wedding ceremony in 2003.

"We've already been living as a married couple — we have children, we have family — so it would be nice to have the legal backing," Harris, accompanied by her mother and the couple's suit-clad 4-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter, told The Associated Press.

“Missouri is finally joining the mainstream by allowing loving couples to formalize their commitment with marriage," Tony Rothert, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri, said. "It is time for Missouri to join the 32 states where same-sex couples can marry." If the judge’s decision stands, Missouri would become the 33rd state, plus the District of Columbia, to allow gay nuptials.

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— Miranda Leitsinger

Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.