Alan Scher Zagier & David A. Lieb / Associated Press

ST. LOUIS (AP) – St. Louis officials launched a challenge to Missouri’s constitutional ban on gay marriage by issuing marriage licenses to four same-sex couples, and the state attorney general quickly went to court Thursday to try to stop it.

The four same-sex couples were married Wednesday in the office of St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay in a ceremony presided over by a municipal judge.

On Thursday, Attorney General Chris Koster filed a lawsuit seeking to stop the marriages, arguing that municipal officials should not be deciding for themselves which state laws to follow.

Photo: Alecia Hoyt Photography

Photo: Alecia Hoyt Photography

St. Louis Circuit Judge Rex Burlison denied a temporary restraining order Thursday. He noted that St. Louis officials have agreed not to issue more marriage licenses to same-sex couples at this time and would do so in the future only after notifying the court and attorney general’s office. The judge is to hear arguments at a later date on whether to grant an injunction against the same-sex marriages.

Slay told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that city officials issued the marriage licenses “to force this issue and to get the law settled” on whether Missouri’s gay marriage ban is legal.

“If we weren’t doing this, no other city in Missouri would,” Slay said.

The attorney general’s office is responsible for defending Missouri’s constitution and laws.

“It is in the public’s interest to require public officials to obey the laws they have sworn to uphold rather than make their own independent determinations as to which laws they will follow,” Koster’s office said in a court filing signed by Solicitor General James Layton.

Missouri voters in 2004 approved a state constitutional amendment limiting marriage to one man and one woman the first such measure enacted nationally after the Massachusetts Supreme Court permitted gay marriage in that state. The Missouri ballot measure passed with 70 percent of the vote.

Since then, there has been no effort by Republican legislative leaders to reconsider the gay marriage ban. But Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon said in February that it should be put to another vote, and that he would support repealing it.

Nixon’s comments came after the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in February seeking to force Missouri to recognize the out-of-state marriages of several same-sex couples.

Last year, Nixon announced that Missouri would accept joint income tax returns from legally married gay couples, mirroring a new policy by the federal Internal Revenue Service.

That prompted a lawsuit from representatives of Baptist and family policy organizations asserting that Nixon’s policy violates Missouri’s constitutional provision recognizing only marriages between men and women. A judge denied a temporary restraining order in April against Nixon’s policy but the case is still pending in Cole County Circuit Court.

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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