Laura Zinszer and Angela Boyle have waited 20 years to be married. Friday they learned they would have to wait a little bit longer, unlike other same-sex couples in their home state.
Missouri’s ban on gay marriage is in limbo this week after a circuit court judge in St. Louis and a federal judge ruling in a Jackson County lawsuit deemed the ban unconstitutional. But U.S. District Court Judge Ortrie Smith stayed his decision in the Western District of Missouri, leaving gay couples hamstrung across the state over the legality of their nuptials.
Missouri’s Democratic Attorney General Chris Koster said he will appeal both rulings. Officials in St. Louis city, St. Louis County and Jackson County started issuing licenses this week after the decisions, but other counties have chosen to wait for the appeals to play out.
Zinszer, a physics teacher at Frederick Douglass High School, and Boyle, a retired nurse, are the first gay couple to file for a marriage license in Boone County, but Boone County Recorder Bettie Johnson said Friday she won’t issue any same-sex licenses until the issue is resolved.
“The county counselor is still reviewing it, but the order also issued a stay, which is now in place,” Johnson said.
Which means more waiting for the couple.
Zinszer and Boyle are the only same-sex couple among five couples with pending marriage license applications. Having already filed the paperwork will save Zinszer and Boyle time if and when the state’s ban is lifted.
“So we’re going to sit and be patient just like we have for 20 years,” Boyle said. “We’re just hoping that the stay will be lifted soon and that Bettie will be able to issue the first license to us in Boone County.”
Zinszer, 58, and Boyle, 52, raised five children from previous marriages together in Columbia. One daughter, now 29, Stephanie Gibbs, led a student organization that fought to add sexual orientation to the school system’s non-discrimination policy.
She wore a button on her purse that read: “I am a product of a gay marriage.”
Now those children are spread out all over the country, Zinszer said, most in states where gay marriage is legal. Growing up, Boyle said, their kids jokingly referred to them as “the moms.”
“We’ve had two of our kids get married. They planned for a year. They’ve been able to invite people. We’re having to wait on the court system to determine whether it’s OK for us to move forward,” Zinszer said.
“We’ve got all adult children and they said, ‘Go ahead and get married as soon as you can,’ and they’ll come celebrate with us afterward.”
She and Boyle debated for years about getting married in a different state, but opted not to as more and more bans were overturned by judges. They said they were close to applying for a license in Iowa when an October ruling in Jackson County mandated Missouri recognize gay marriages performed in other states.
“We live in Boone County and this is where we want to file,” said Zinszer. “This is home and that’s nothing we would ask of a straight couple. It’s an issue of equality at some point.
“We have friends and family in Columbia that have rallied around us and want to share the moment with us. That’s the thing about leaving: we don’t want to leave them behind.”
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed rulings in Ohio, Michigan, Tennessee and Kentucky on Thursday, allowing gay marriage bans to stand in those states.
After appeals, that case will most likely head to the Supreme Court which a month ago passed on hearing appeals from five states that had their bans overturned.
“I suspect that will take some time to wind through the system to become final,” Boone County Counselor C.J. Dykhouse said of Thursday’s Western District ruling.
If Missouri’s two cases are not resolved within the year, Zinszer said the couple will head to another state to wed.
Zinszer is eligible to retire from the school system, but must have a valid marriage for three years before Boyle can be a beneficiary of her pension.
Boyle said Johnson will call her as soon as she can legally issue a license. Their marriage application has been on file with the recorder’s office since June.
“We’ll move as quickly as possible to organize a wedding as soon as possible,” said Zinszer. “As soon as it’s legal.”
They already have a minister who has agreed to officiate a small ceremony in their home.
“We’re just regular people,” said Boyle. “And we’re ready to get married.”