- June 27, 2014
Guest post submitted by AJ Bockelman, Executive Director of PROMO
Last year during Saint Louis Pride, I had the distinct honor to help Kate Oakley of HRC present Mayor Francis Slay with a plaque to commemorate Saint Louis’ perfect 100% score on the Municipal Equality Index. Saint Louis was one of only 11 cities at the time with a perfect score. As Mayors go, they tend to get a lot of recognition.
However for Mayor Francis Slay, I know from working with the gentleman that this was no simple award. Francis Slay comes from a large Catholic family of 10 siblings here in Saint Louis, but what most people don’t know is that he has three out siblings. Even in 2004, he was one of the few elected officials to vocally condemn the marriage amendment. He has long sought to make Saint Louis a friendly place, not just because he believes it is right, but because it is also important for his own family to be comfortable right in their own backyard. I believe that is a strong reason why we have seen Saint Louis consistently up there as a friendly, pro-LGBT hub right here in the Midwest. That award was a personal moment of pride and accomplishment.
This week, Mayor Francis Slay took another major step forward and openly challenged Missouri’s Marriage Amendment by ordering the Recorder of Deeds in the City of Saint Louis to issue a marriage license. Four couples were married in individual ceremonies right in his chamber. To be clear, these couples received licences in anticipation of them becoming plaintiffs in a lawsuit; at the request of Missouri's Attorney General the City is no longer issuing licenses to same sex couples.
Our team at PROMO worked with the Mayor to arrange these actions, so I consider it an honor to have been present to witness that moment of history, especially when I could see how emotional and excited the Mayor was as each couple affirmed their love and commitment to one another.
I also find it poignant that about this same time last year, SCOTUS rendered the Windsor decision, striking down a portion of DOMA and setting in motion a slow steady drip, no drum beat… no… a torrent of cases and actions around the country. That constant flow of equality we are seeing now owes some debt of gratitude to things like the Municipal Equality Index. It has become a measurable way to help bring allies and even enemies further along the path of equality. It has helped wake up people once quiet or even apathetic. It is leadership from municipal elected officials like Mayor Slay who will help us win the fight for equality.