Arkansas became the 22nd U.S. state where gay marriage was deemed lawful when a court there threw out a ban on same-sex unions, further extending the growing number of states allowing such unions into the South.
State court Judge Christopher Charles Piazza in Little Rock invalidated Arkansas’ prohibition, citing a 1967 U.S. Supreme Court decision that ruled a ban on interracial marriage was similarly unlawful to support his reasoning. The ruling is the latest victory for same-sex marriage proponents in a spate of litigation nationwide following a Supreme Court ruling in June that overturned part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
“It is time to let that beacon of freedom shine brighter on all our brothers and sisters,” the judge wrote. “We will be stronger for it.”
The Arkansas ruling follows federal court decisions that since December have invalidated same-sex marriage bans in Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia and Michigan. The decisions legalizing same- sex marriage in those states are on hold while they’re appealed.
The state will appeal the ruling, Aaron Sadler, a spokesman for the Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, said in a statement. Piazza will also be asked to put his ruling on hold during the appeal “so as not to create confusion or uncertainty about the law,” Sadler said. Arkansas filed its appeal over the weekend, according to the Associated Press.
The Arkansas lawsuit is one of more than 70 marriage equality cases pending in 29 states and Puerto Rico, the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights advocacy group, said in statement on its website. The group said it is spending $8.5 million on a new program to promote equality for residents of Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama.
Gay marriage rights have been recognized by popular vote, court rulings or state legislatures in California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia.
A federal judge in Texas has ruled that state’s ban is unconstitutional when he was asked to issue a preliminary injunction. Judge Orlando Garcia left the state ban in place pending appeal.
The case is Wright v. State of Arkansas, 60CV-13-2662, Circuit Court of Pulaski County, Arkansas, Second Division (Little Rock).
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