Judge strikes all Arkansas bans on gay marriage

May 15, 2014

— A judge cleared the way Thursday for gay marriages to resume in Arkansas, striking down all state laws that prevent same-sex couples from wedding.

A day after the state Supreme Court effectively halted gay marriages in the state, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza expanded his ruling striking down a constitutional ban to also include the prohibition on clerks issuing same-sex marriage licenses. Justices had ruled Wednesday that Piazza’s decision on the gay marriage ban did not change that license law.

Piazza also rejected a request to suspend his ruling, saying there’s no evidence the state would be harmed by allowing gay marriages to continue.

“The same cannot be said of the plaintiffs and other same-sex couples who have not been afforded the same measure of human dignity, respect and recognition by this state as their similarly situated, opposite sex counterparts,” Piazza wrote. “A stay would operate to further damage Arkansas families and deprive them of equal access to the rights associated with marriage status in this state.”

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel’s office said he would appeal and was asking the high court to suspend Piazza’s latest order. McDaniel, a Democrat, recently said he supports gay marriage but would continue defending the state’s ban in court.

Same-sex marriage status in the U.S., state-by-state

Last Friday, Piazza threw out a 10-year-old ban that voters placed in the state constitution, as well as a separate state law barring same-sex marriages.

After Piazza’s decision last Friday, clerks in five counties responded by issuing marriage licenses to gay couples. Through Wednesday evening, 456 gay couples in Arkansas had since received permission to marry, according to an Associated Press canvass of county clerks.

Meanwhile, in Idaho, residents planning to gather at courthouses across the state to celebrate same-sex marriages saw their plans put on hold Thursday by a federal appeals court.

Idaho’s gay marriage ban was overturned Tuesday when U.S. District Judge Candy Dale said the law unconstitutionally denied gay and lesbian residents their fundamental right to marry. Dale said Idaho must begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples starting Friday morning.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a temporary stay while it considers whether a longer stay is needed. Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter and Attorney General Lawrence Wasden both asked that Dale’s ruling be placed on hold while they appeal.

— Associated Press

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