US: Arkansas judge strikes down same-sex marriage ban

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An Arkansas judge has struck down the state’s constitutional same-sex marriage ban.

Judge Chris Piazza today found that Amendment 83, adopted in 2004, violated the rights of same-sex couples by defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

He wrote in his ruling: “Amendment 83 singled out same-sex couples for the purpose of disparate treatment.

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

Piazza did not issue a stay in his ruling, meaning couples could begin to marry as soon as Monday, however the state has indicated it intends to apply for one.

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel said: “In keeping with the Attorney General’s obligation to defend the state constitution, we will appeal.

“We will request that Judge Piazza issue a stay of his ruling so as not to create confusion or uncertainty about the law while the Supreme Court considers the matter.”

Last week, McDaniel announced that he personally supports same-sex marriage, but will continue to defend the ban.

A statement from Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, reads: “Today a state circuit judge in Arkansas ruled in favour of the freedom to marry, the latest in a unanimous wave of more than a dozen state and federal judges across the country in recent months.

“Judge Piazza held that there is no good reason for discriminating against couples and their loved ones just because they are gay.

“With more than 70 marriage cases now making their way through the courts and five federal appellate courts now hearing arguments and soon to rule, today’s decision out of Arkansas underscores that all of America is ready for the freedom to marry.”
Piazza’s ruling follows a three-hour hearing last month, in which he heard summary arguments to strike down the ban.

Attorney Jack Wagoner noted during the hearing that since the US Supreme Court struck down the Defence of Marriage Act last year, 18 federal and state court decisions have addressed equality based on sexual orientation, and all of them ruled in favour of same-sex couples.

He said: “I love coming to court when the facts are all on my side.”

Same-sex marriage is currently legal in 17 states and the District of Columbia, but decisions striking down marriage bans in several other states are stayed pending appeal.