Arkansas Judge Strikes Down State’s Gay Marriage Ban

An Arkansas judge says he sees no reason to ban same-sex marriages.

Arkansas is on its way to legalising gay marriages. Photo: Richard Proffitt/Flickr

Arkansas is on its way to legalising gay marriages. Photo: Richard Proffitt/Flickr

An Arkansas judge on Friday struck down a local’s ban on same-sex marriage, citing that the state has “no rational reason” for preventing same-sex couples from tying the knot.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza came to conclusion that the 2004 amendment to the state constitution extremely violates the rights of same-sex couples.

Piazza didn’t consider it for a long time as some judges have done in other states, opening the door for gay couples in Arkansas to begin seeking marriage licenses, though it was not clear whether that would happen before Monday.

“This is an unconstitutional attempt to narrow the definition of equality,” Piazza wrote. “The exclusion of a minority for no rational reason is a dangerous precedent.”

State Attorney General Dustin McDaniel’s office said he would appeal the ruling and asked Piazza to suspend it during that process.

“We respect the Court’s decision, but, in keeping with the Attorney General’s obligation to defend the state constitution, we will appeal,” spokesman Aaron Sadler said.

Piazza issued his ruling late Friday, about half an hour after the marriage license office in Pulaski County closed, reports The Huffington Post.

Piazza’s ruling comes a week after McDaniel proclaimed that he personally stands for same-sex marriages but would continue to defend the constitutional ban in court. Sadler said McDaniel explained the stay as “we know that questions about validity of certain actions will arise absent a stay.”

The amendment that bans gay marriage was passed in the state back in 2004 and was highly suppoted by Arkansas voters. Piazza’s ruling also overturns a 1997 state law banning gay marriage.

In his decision, Piazza cited the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1967 decision that invalidated laws on interracial marriage.

“It has been over 40 years since Mildred Loving was given the right to marry the person of her choice,” Piazza wrote, referring to that ruling. “The hatred and fears have long since vanished and she and her husband lived full lives together; so it will be for the same-sex couples. It is time to let that beacon of freedom shine brighter on all our brothers and sisters. We will be stronger for it.”

The head of the Human Rights Campaign, the largest U.S. lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights, welcomed the ruling.

“This victory is an essential step on the journey toward full equality for all,” said HRC President Chad Griffin, an Arkansas native.

However, the leader of the group that stood for the Arkansas ban admitted the judge was undermining the will of voters.

“This ruling undermines marriage because once people start redefining marriage, there seems to be no place to stop,” Arkansas Family Council President Jerry Cox said.

McDaniel, a Democrat in his final year as attorney general, is the first statewide elected official in Arkansas to support marriage equality.

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