Late yesterday, a circuit court judge in Arkansas struck down that state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.
In his decision, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza claimed that the state has “no rational reason” for preventing same-sex couples from getting married. He went on to state that the ban “…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.” He ruled that the 2004 voter-approved amendment to the state constitution violates the rights of same-sex couples, however Piazza did not put his ruling on hold as some judges have done in other states. In theory, Piazza’s ruling means that same-sex couples in Arkansas can seek marriage licenses. Although it was not clear whether that would happen over the weekend, the first licenses were issues today in Carroll County.
State Attorney General Dustin McDaniel’s office said he would appeal the ruling, despite McDaniel’s earlier announcement that he personally supports gay marriage rights. McDaniel, a Democrat in his final year as attorney general, is the first statewide elected official in Arkansas to support marriage equality.
With the ruling, Arkansas becomes the first and only Southern state with marriage equality as decisions in other Southern states (Virginia, Texas, Tennessee, Kentucky) are currently stayed pending the outcome of appeals.