Arkansas Judge Strikes Down State Ban On
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[May 10, 2014]
By Steve Barnes
LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas (Reuters) - An
Arkansas state judge struck down the state's ban on same-sex marriage on
Friday saying it violates equal protection provisions of the U.S.
Constitution, a ruling that adds to the push to expand marriage rights
for same-sex couples.
Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza did not issue a stay of
the decision, opening the door for same-sex couples to apply for
"Arkansas's marriage laws discriminate against same-sex couples in
violation of the Equal Protection Clause because they do not advance
any conceivable legitimate state interest necessary to support even
a rational basis review," Piazza wrote in a 13-page finding filed on
The state's attorney general intends to appeal and will ask for a
stay "so as not to create confusion or uncertainty about the law
while the Supreme Court considers the matter," spokesman Aaron
Seventeen states plus the District of Columbia allow same-sex
couples to marry. That number would increase sharply if federal
court rulings striking down bans in several states are upheld on
Judge Piazza wrote that the state's defense of the gay marriage ban
was "eerily similar" to arguments made a half-century ago banning
"The issue at hand is the fundamental right to marry being denied to
an unpopular minority. Our judiciary has failed such groups in the
past," Piazza wrote.
The ban, approved overwhelmingly by Arkansas voters in 2004 as
Amendment 83 to the state constitution, defined marriage as solely
between a man and a woman. It denies legal recognition of same-sex
marriages performed legally in other states.
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"I'm thrilled. It's long overdue and I'm just real proud of
Arkansas. And I hope there's no backlash on it," said John Rankine,
59, an artist from Eureka Springs who was one of the plaintiffs in
The legal challenge was brought by 21 same-sex Arkansas couples who
said the gay marriage prohibition violated their rights under both
the U.S. and state constitutions.
The Family Council, a conservative education and research
organization that pushed for the ban, said the judge was undermining
the will of the people.
"This fight isn't over and I look forward to a more sensible ruling
from the Arkansas Supreme Court," said Jerry Cox, the council's
(Reporting by Steve Barnes; Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by
Cynthia Johnston, Chris Reese and Andre Grenon)
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