A judge in Arkansas has struck down that state’s law banning marriage equality.
Judge Chris Piazza issued the ruling in a lawsuit filed by several same-sex couples. He did not stay his ruling, which an attorney for the plaintiffs said apparently clears the way for same-sex couples to marry.
The state attorney general’s office said it would appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court and would seek a stay.
In a 13-page, single-spaced order, Piazza said Arkansas’ constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman and a state law barring same-sex marriages from being performed or recognized violate inalienable rights guaranteed under both the federal and state constitutions.
“Arkansas’ 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 said in the order.
The judge said the Arkansas Constitution states that “all men are created equally free and independent,” but that in passing Amendment 83, voters “singled out same-sex couples for the purpose of disparate treatment. This is an unconstitutional attempt to narrow the definition of equality.”
Amendment 83 passed in 2004 with 75 percent of the vote, a fact often cited by its supporters. Piazza wrote that “the fact that Amendment 83 was popular with voters does not protect it from constitutional scrutiny” and that the U.S. Constitution guarantees rights that cannot be submitted to a vote.
The state’s attorney general, Dustin McDaniel, has said he is only defending the law because it is the law. He supports marriage equality.