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Arkansas Ban on Same-Sex Marriage Ruled Unconstitutional

Pulaski County Circuit Court judge issues decision via online filing.
LITTLE ROCK, AR - The State of Arkansas' ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.

That's the ruling (see attached) late this afternoon by Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Chris Piazza.

Judge Piazza's decision was revealed in an online filing.

The ruling nullifies Act 144 of 1997 and Amendment 83, which was passed by Arkansas voters in 2004. The law defined legal marriages in Arkansas as only those between a man and a woman.

In a three-hour hearing last month, Piazza's courtroom overflowed with observers of the proceedings. 

Plaintiffs presented more than three dozen gay/lesbian couples asking for the change that would allow them to legally marry in Arkansas.

Following Judge Piazza’s ruling, Human Rights Campaign president and Arkansas native Chad Griffin issued the following statement in a news release (full release attached):
"I want to congratulate the plaintiffs in this case, as well as lead attorney Cheryl Maples and cocounsel Jack Wagoner, on this historic victory for Arkansas values. All across my home state, throughout the South, and around the country, LGBT people and their families are seeking basic respect and dignity. This victory is an essential step on the journey toward full equality for all."

Arkansas Family Council also reacted via a news release, saying the ruling was "terribly wrong." The full release is attached.

Also following Judge Piazza's ruling, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel issued the following statement:

(News release) - We respect the Court’s decision, but, 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.

(AR TIMES) - The order came after county clerks offices closed for the week. But they can expect a flood of applicants Monday morning. Pulaski County Clerk Larry Crane said he'd be ready with software to issue gender-neutral marriage licenses Monday morning. The judge's decision not to issue a stay isn't surprising. Why would a judge allow something he found unconstitutional to continue? He might also decline McDaniel's request, which would send the attorney general to the Supreme Court for relief. It recently issued a stay of a lower court order in hotly contested lawsuits over judicial candidacies after Circuit Judge Tim Fox didn't issue one.
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