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Revelers crowd St. Louis City Hall to celebrate historic marriage decision

A joyous throng filled the rotunda of St. Louis’s City Hall Friday night — on the eve of PrideFest — to celebrate the U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage.

The court ruled Friday that all 50 states must allow these unions.They must also recognize such marriages performed in other states and countries.

Several couples at the gathering of about 150 people have already helped to change the law in Missouri.

John Durnell and Richard Eaton
Credit Cindy Betz
John Durnell and Richard Eaton

A year ago, John Durnell and his husband Richard Eaton were the first same-sex couple to marry in the state, after 39 years together. A lawsuit involving them and three other couples, who were secretly married at City Hall, led to Missouri's same-sex marriage ban being overturned last fall.

Durnell said Friday’s decision ironically did something critics claimed it would: change the definition of marriage.

“Marriage is no longer defined by either 'gay marriage' or defined by a man or a woman; it’s just defined by love. It’s just two people who love each other,” Durnell said.

Or as Mayor Slay put it …

“Finally, Americans can just call it 'marriage,'” Slay said.

Bittersweet moment, more work ahead

Rhonda Broussard with Olive and Oscar
Credit Cindy Betz
Rhonda Broussard with Olivia and Oscar

Rhonda Broussard is on the board of Missouri’s LGBT advocacy group, PROMO. She brought her 6- and 10-year-olds because fighting for marriage is woven into the family fabric.

“Our kids have been part of this movement their entire lives,” Broussard said.

And what was her daughter Olivia's first thought when she heard the news?

“Smiley face,” Olivia said.

“You know that new generation; they think in emojis and emoticons,” Broussard explained.

But for Broussard, the night was one of mixed emotions. She and her former partner, the children’s other parent, separated five years ago.

“It’s a little bittersweet. Now there’s opportunity for real marriage recognition, and our relationship didn’t withstand it,” Broussard said.

Broussard and others pointed out there’s much more work to be done. LGBT people in Missouri can still be fired from jobs and denied housing because of who they are.

Along with several others, Leroy Fitzwater explained it this way: “You can be married on Saturday and fired on Monday,” when your boss finds out about it.

And as speaker Kara Wolter pointed out, transgender people are still not protected in Missouri.

“The fight is not over yet,” Wolter said.

Follow Nancy Fowler on Twitter: @NancyFowlerSTL

Nancy is a veteran journalist whose career spans television, radio, print and online media. Her passions include the arts and social justice, and she particularly delights in the stories of people living and working in that intersection.