A judge overturned Missouri's ban on gay marriage Wednesday, and St. Louis immediately began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
The state's ban violated the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause and due process clause, St. Louis Circuit Judge Rex M. Burlison wrote in his ruling. "Any same-sex couple that satisfies all the requirements for marriage under Missouri law, other than being of different sexes, is legally entitled to a marriage license," he wrote.
"Oh, it's crowded here, it's real crowded," Dorothy Jackson, who answered the phone at the city's marriage license department, told the Los Angeles Times. At least two marriage licenses had been issued already to same-sex couples, she said minutes after the ruling came down.
The case that culminated in this decision was brought by the state of Missouri on June 26, the day after St. Louis issued marriage licenses to four same-sex couples.
Wednesday's decision says the state argued that a same-sex couple's right to marry "is not deeply rooted in the nation's history and tradition." But that argument "mischaracterizes general principles of due process analysis," the decision says.
"Fundamental rights are not dependent on the person seeking to exercise that right," it says.
St. Louis ended up issuing marriage licenses to four same-sex couples Wednesday afternoon, and more are expected in the days to come, said Jennifer Florida, St. Louis' recorder of deeds and vital records registrar.
Advocates of same-sex marriage cheered the decision.
"As Missourians get to know married same-sex couples and their families, they will see clearly that their marriages are based on love, commitment and an interest in caring for their families," Marc Solomon, a Kansas City native and national campaign director for Freedom to Marry, said in a statement.
"This is a positive move forward for loving same-sex couples in the city of St. Louis," said Jeffrey Mittman, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri. "It is also a win for families throughout Missouri as another discriminatory obstacle is lowered."
More than 30 states and the District of Columbia now allow same-sex couples to marry. The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear appeals of numerous federal rulings overturning bans on same-sex marriage.
In the last month, bans have been overturned in Alaska, Arizona, Kansas and Wyoming.