In an open challenge to Missouri's ban on gay marriage, St. Louis officials on Wednesday issued marriage licenses to four gay couples.

The couples were married by a municipal judge in the office of Mayor Francis Slay.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the city has voluntarily agreed not to issue any more licenses to gay couples.

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster sued the city on Thursday.

“But, make no mistake about it,” Slay said, “I, and all of us standing here, are doing this to force the issue and to get the law settled for everyone who wants to get married in the state of Missouri.”

“If we weren't doing this, no other city in Missouri would,” he added.

In a tweet, Mayor Slay added: “This is a human rights issue, a quality of life issue, and an economic issue.”

The city said it had considered the challenge for more than a year and a half.

The first to marry were John Durnell and Richard Eaton (pictured above with Mayor Slay), who have been together 39 years. (A video from the ceremony is embedded on this page. Visit our video library for more videos.)

In 2004, voters overwhelmingly (71%) approved Amendment 2, a constitutional amendment which states: “That to be valid and recognized in this state, a marriage shall exist only between a man and a woman.” The city of St. Louis, which acts as an independent municipality, was the only county to reject Amendment 2.