(Jefferson City) (AP) – Within hours of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision Friday to legalize gay marriage – upending Missouri’s constitutional ban on the practice – same-sex couples in the state applied and were granted marriage licenses.
The decision marks a sweeping end to the constitutional amendment enacted in 2004 to ban the practice, which was approved by about 70 percent of voters at the time. The state was the first to adopt a constitutional ban following a decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Court permitting gay marriage.
Despite that history, state and local leaders moved swiftly to ensure Missouri complied with the high court’s decision. The Supreme Court gave the losing side roughly three weeks to ask for a rehearing, but University of Missouri-Kansas City law professor David Achtenberg said it’s unlikely the justices will change their minds.
Attorney General Chris Koster on Friday dropped appeals of two cases fighting the state’s ban on gay marriage, eliminating legal questions and further clearing the path for marriages for same-sex couples. Gov. Jay Nixon also pledged to take “all necessary and appropriate actions” to ensure the ruling is implemented in Missouri.
“No one should be discriminated against because of who they are or who they love,” Nixon said in a statement.
Some Republican lawmakers decried the ruling. Springfield Republican Rep. Sonya Anderson said the decision “should be left in the hands of the states and the people.”
“This decision stands in stark contrast to the will of the people of Missouri, who overwhelmingly support the traditional definition of marriage that is enshrined in our state Constitution,” Anderson said in a statement.
While Jan Jones – the president of an association of officials charged with issuing marriage licenses – said the issue might make some officials “uncomfortable,” she directed all counties to comply quickly with the decision.
Recorders’ Association of Missouri President Jones said some might experience technical delays because some software counties use might not have options for marrying two men or two women. But she hasn’t heard of any county recorders deciding to wait until the decision is final.
Some same-sex couples received marriage licenses within hours.
Laura Zinszer, 58, and her partner of about 20 years, Angela Boyle, 52, of Columbia, were watching online when the decision came down and were overwhelmed.
“We were crying,” Boyle said. “We were ecstatic. We were just out of this world.”
They immediately rushed to the Boone County Recorder of Deed’s Office, where they had submitted their marriage application a year ago. The office had placed it on hold while the courts battled the legality of same-sex marriage, and after attorneys reviewed the Supreme Court decision, they quickly received a license. Three out-of-town children surprised them and announced plans to fly in over the weekend so they, along with a child who lives in Columbia, can attend the couple’s wedding Monday.
“I am a little numb,” Zinszer said. “We are really emotional about this. For me, I’ve been holding my breath hoping that this would be a positive outcome, but there were no guarantees.”
Boone County Recorder of Deeds Nora Dietzel said the office phone “blew up once the ruling came through.” She said she has friends who will be affected, and she’s excited to be directly involved.
During a news conference at the American Civil Liberties Union office in St. Louis, ACLU attorney Tony Rothert said the ruling is clear, so county recorders of deeds and clerks must issue marriage licenses immediately.
Otherwise, he said, the ACLU will sue.
“Denying someone a marriage license today is a violation of the law,” Rothert said.
(St. Louis) (AP) – The effort to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour in St. Louis hit a potentially fatal snag Friday when the chairman of the committee that would consider the idea canceled all future hearings on it.
A measure filed earlier this month with support of Democratic Mayor Francis Slay would have potentially raised the minimum wage in the city to $15 an hour by 2020.
But the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Alderman Joe Vaccaro, acting chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, canceled all hearings on the proposal, calling it disingenuous to push the bill on such short notice.
The bill would have to pass before Aug. 28. That’s when a state law takes effect that forbids cities from raising the minimum wage higher than the state level, unless Gov. Jay Nixon vetoes it. Missouri’s minimum wage is $7.65 per hour.
Slay said a single alderman shouldn’t be able to end debate.
“Marriage equality, justice, access to quality education and a living wage-these are family issues that hold communities together,” Slay said. “The city has led the region and state on all of them. We want to be that different place.”
Two-thirds majority of aldermen would be needed to pull the bill out of committee, a tall task for a bill on such a hotly-debated topic. Meanwhile, aldermen go on summer break starting July 10.
“Without enough time to get all the facts it would be impossible to come up with what is fair and equitable for everyone,” said Vaccaro. He took over leadership of the committee after chairman Steve Conway recused himself over a conflict of interest. Conway is the chief financial officer of St. Louis-based pizza chain Imo’s, which would be affected by the rate increase.
(Ferguson) (AP) – Another effort to recall the mayor of Ferguson in the wake of last summer’s shooting death of Michael Brown has fallen short.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports the St. Louis County Board of Elections says Ground Level Support was 27 votes short of the required 1,814 valid signatures needed to force an election to recall Mayor James Knowles III.
Ground Level Support says the recall election should move forward because the city missed a deadline in certifying the signatures. The group’s recall push also fell short in May.
Knowles, who’s white, was criticized for comments he made after last August’s shooting death of Brown by white police officer Darren Wilson. In a statement Friday, Knowles says there’s still work to do “if one person signed the recall petition.”
by Jim Salter, AP
(St. Louis) (AP) – Storms with wind gusts up to 80 mph and torrential rains swept across Missouri overnight into Friday morning, leaving more than 150,000 homes and businesses without power and forcing dozens of water rescues.
Damage was widespread. Power outages were common in western Missouri – 107,000 customers of Kansas City Power & Light lost electricity Friday morning, and Independence Power & Light reported 42,000 outages. Downed power lines and trees were so common that many roads were closed. Fort Osage and Independence school districts canceled summer school classes due to outages.
In eastern Missouri, rain was the bigger problem. Up to 6 inches of rain fell in some areas.
Lincoln County, north of the St. Louis area, was especially hard hit. Rain came so fast and furious that the Cuivre River and several creeks flooded.
Lincoln County emergency management coordinator Jerry Daugherty said 31 people had to be rescued from homes and cars. About two dozen people had to evacuate their homes in the Winfield area. No injuries were reported. Shelters were opened in Troy and Winfield.
“In the last 2 1/2 weeks, we’ve had a tornado and this is the fourth flash flood,” Daugherty said. “I ain’t had a day off in a long time.”
Most maddening to Daugherty were the vehicle water rescues, since many of the drivers ventured past barricades and “Flooded Road” signs.
“They’ll move the barricade and drive into the water, then we have to go in and rescue them,” he said.
U.S. 61 was closed in both directions at the Cuivre River Bridge in Lincoln County. Dozens of roads were closed by flooding across northern and eastern Missouri.
Gov. Jay Nixon planned visits to Clarksville and Winfield on Saturday.
“The state is working closely with local officials and volunteers to see that they have all the necessary resources to recover and prepare for the possibility of additional flooding,” Nixon said in a statement.
The rain also caused standing water on St. Louis interstates, leading to several morning rush-hour accidents. There were no fatalities.
The storm also knocked out power in mid-Missouri, and created flash flooding along several roads in the Columbia area.
Rain over the past three weeks has swamped much of the state. The Mississippi and Missouri rivers were already above flood stage, and the National Weather Service said they’re going up again.
In Hannibal, flood gates were installed to protect the Mark Twain historic district downtown. The National Weather Service predicts a crest nearly 7 feet above flood stage on Sunday.
The Mississippi is expected to crest more than 9 feet above flood stage in St. Louis on Tuesday. Meanwhile, the weather service is calling for crests 6 to 9 feet above flood stage from mid-Missouri to St. Charles on the Missouri River.
(Seymour) (AP) – A man has died after being struck by lightning in a southwest Missouri farm field.
KYTV reports the 30-year-old Amish man died Friday morning along with two horses he was using to cultivate the field near Seymour.
The Webster County Sheriff’s Department says both horses also died.
The county coroner says he’ll try to determine whether the man was killed by the lightning or a secondary injury. The man’s name hasn’t been released.
(Murfreesboro) (AP) – An 8.52 carat diamond has been found by a Colorado woman at Arkansas’ Crater of Diamonds State Park at Murfreesboro.
Park officials said Friday that the gem found by Bobbie Oskarson of Longmont, Colorado, is the fifth largest diamond found since the park was established in 1972. The park does not provide an estimate of the diamond’s potential value.
Park interpreter Waymon Cox said Oskarson found the gem Wednesday in the southwest corner of the 37½ acre search field and named it Esperanza Diamond for her niece’s name and the Spanish word for “hope.” Cox said the diamond is about three-quarters of an inch long and as big around as a standard No. 2 pencil.
The largest diamond found at the park is 16.37 carats and was discovered in 1975.
(Denver) (AP) – Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum is talking about the landmark gay marriage ruling as he tries to woo conservative voters in Denver.
Santorum says the Supreme Court’s decision making same-sex marriage the law of the land is “based on a lie.” He says the lie is that opponents of gay marriage are bigots.
Santorum is one of seven presidential hopefuls in Denver this weekend addressing the Western Conservative Summit.
Also attending the conference are Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Rounding out the slate are businesswoman Carly Fiorina, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and neurosurgeon Ben Carson.
Santorum won Colorado’s GOP presidential caucuses in 2012 and 2008.
by Mark Sherman, AP
(Washington) (AP) – The Supreme Court declared Friday that same-sex couples have a right to marry anywhere in the United States, a historic culmination of decades of litigation over gay marriage and gay rights generally.
Gay and lesbian couples already could marry in 36 states and the District of Columbia. The court’s 5-4 ruling means the remaining 14 states, in the South and Midwest, will have to stop enforcing their bans on same-sex marriage.
A court in Atlanta issued marriage licenses to three same-sex couples Friday morning, soon after the decision.
Gay rights supporters cheered, danced and wept outside the court after the decision, which put an exclamation point on breathtaking changes in the nation’s social norms.
Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion, just as he did in the court’s previous three major gay rights cases dating back to 1996. It came on the anniversary of two of those earlier decisions.
“No union is more profound than marriage,” Kennedy wrote, joined by the court’s four more liberal justices.
The stories of the people asking for the right to marry “reveal that they seek not to denigrate marriage but rather to live their lives, or honor their spouses’ memory, joined by its bond,” Kennedy said.
As he read his opinion, spectators in the courtroom wiped away tears after the import of the decision became clear. One of those in the audience was James Obergefell, the lead plaintiff in the Supreme Court fight.
Outside, Obergefell held up a photo of his late spouse, John, and said the ruling establishes that “our love is equal.” He added, “This is for you, John.”
President Barack Obama placed a congratulatory phone call to Obergefell, which he took amid a throng of reporters outside the courthouse.
Speaking a few minutes later at the White House, Obama praised the decision as “justice that arrives like a thunderbolt.” He said it was an affirmation of the principle that “all Americans are created equal.”
The four dissenting justices each filed a separate opinion explaining his views, but they all agreed that states and their voters should have been left with the power to decide who can marry.
“This court is not a legislature. Whether same-sex marriage is a good idea should be of no concern to us,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in dissent. Roberts read a summary of his dissent from the bench, the first time he has done so in nearly 10 years as chief justice.
“If you are among the many Americans – of whatever sexual orientation – who favor expanding same-sex marriage, by all means celebrate today’s decision,” Roberts said. “But do not celebrate the Constitution. It had nothing to do with it.”
Justice Antonin Scalia said he was not concerned so much about same-sex marriage but about “this court’s threat to American democracy.” Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas also dissented.
Several religious organizations criticized the decision and a group of pastors in Texas vowed to defy it.
Kennedy said nothing in the court’s ruling would force religions to condone, much less perform, weddings to which they object.
The ruling will not take effect immediately because the court gives the losing side roughly three weeks to ask for reconsideration. But some state officials and county clerks might follow the lead of the Fulton County, Georgia, probate court and decide there is little risk in issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
The cases before the court involved laws from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee that define marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Those states have not allowed same-sex couples to marry within their borders and they also have refused to recognize valid marriages from elsewhere.
Just two years ago, the Supreme Court struck down part of the federal anti-gay marriage law that denied a range of government benefits to legally married same-sex couples.
Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor formed the majority with Kennedy on Friday, the same lineup as two years ago.
The earlier decision in United States v. Windsor did not address the validity of state marriage bans, but courts across the country, with few exceptions, said its logic compelled them to invalidate state laws that prohibited gay and lesbian couples from marrying.
The number of states allowing same-sex marriage has grown rapidly. As recently as last October, just over one-third of the states permitted it.
There are an estimated 390,000 married same-sex couples in the United States, according to UCLA’s Williams Institute, which tracks the demographics of gay and lesbian Americans. Another 70,000 couples living in states that do not currently permit them to wed would get married in the next three years, the institute says. Roughly 1 million same-sex couples, married and unmarried, live together in the United States, the institute says.
The Obama administration backed the right of same-sex couples to marry. The Justice Department’s decision to stop defending the federal anti-marriage law in 2011 was an important moment for gay rights, and Obama declared his support for same-sex marriage in 2012.
The states affected by Friday’s ruling are: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, most of Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas.
Associated Press writers Jessica Gresko, Sam Hananel and Glynn Hill contributed to this report.
(Mountain Home) – Due to weather conditions, the Mountain Home Chamber of Commerce has canceled the Red, White, & Blue Parade scheduled for today at 5:30 PM, and the parade will not be rescheduled.
Chamber officials say all candy sponsors for this event will be carried over to the 2015 Christmas Parade.
Please contact Tracy Jones at 870-425-5111 for further information.
(Gainesville) – No major injuries are being reported after a small airplane crashed Friday morning near Gainesville High School.
Officials with the Ozark County Sheriff’s Department told Ozark Radio News that there were two people in the plane at the time of the accident, and both people suffered minor injuries.
No damage was reported to the high school facility. We’ll have more information on this story when it becomes available. Continue to check www.ozarkareanetwork.com for more information on this story.