In a two-page notice, Missouri Solicitor General Jeremiah Morgan informs U.S. District Judge Ortrie Smith, who ruled against the state’s ban on same-sex marriage last month, of the state’s intent to appeal the decision.
The notice of appeal isn’t a surprise. At the time of the ruling, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, a Democrat, had publicly announced the state would appeal the decision.
Although the judge stayed his ruling, same-sex couples in Jackson County already started to wed as a result of the decision and were already marrying in St. Louis as a result of an earlier state court decision against the marriage ban.
Another state court had ruled against the state’s marriage law as it pertains to recognizing same-sex marriage that have been already performed, but the state determined it wouldn’t appeal that decision.
The notice of appeal makes the Missouri federal marriage case, which was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri on behalf of two same-sex couples, the first marriage litigation to reach the Eighth Circuit following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision against the Defense of Marriage Act. A federal court has ruled against the ban on same-sex marriage on another state in the Eighth Circuit, Arkansas, but the state hasn’t yet indicated whether it will appeal the ruling.
Marriage litigation in the Eighth Circuit is more complicated than lawsuits in other jurisdictions because that appeals courts has upheld the ban on same-sex marriage recognition in Nebraska as constitutional in 2006 in the case of Citizens for Equal Protection v. Bruning. However, that decision came down before the Supreme Court’s decision against DOMA. It remains to be seen whether the Eighth Circuit will interpret that ruling as new guidance to reverse its previous decision and institute marriage equality throughout the jurisdiction.
State litigation seeking marriage equality in Missouri is also proceeding. The state has indicated it has appealed a decision in November from Circuit Judge Rex Burlison in favor of Missouri same-sex marriage to the Missouri Supreme Court, but didn’t seek a delay of weddings as result of the decision. The Missouri Supreme Court has yet to rule on this litigation.