A county clerk in Eureka Springs, Ark., began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples this morning after a local judge on Friday declared the state’s 2004 ban unconstitutional.
Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza ruled the state had “no rational reason” for preventing gay couples from marrying. Unlike other judges who have issued similar rulings in the last few months, Piazza did not stay his decision, paving the way for same-sex couples to apply for marriage licenses immediately.
State Attorney General Dustin McDaniel plans to appeal Piazza’s decision, even though he told reporters earlier this week that he supports same-sex marriage.
Although some couples are moving forward with wedding plans after getting licenses today, they could see their unions invalidated in the coming weeks. In early January, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an emergency stay for a Utah ruling that struck down that state’s same-sex marriage ban. The state invalidated about 1,000 same-sex unions formed before the high court’s intervention. But the Obama administration declared it would recognize the unions, giving Arkansas couples motivation for trying to wed, even if the state refuses to recognize their marriages.
In his ruling, Piazza leaned heavily on the Supreme Court’s 1967 decision striking down bans on interracial marriage.
“It has been over 40 years since Mildred Loving was given the right to marry the person of her choice,” Piazza wrote, referring to that ruling. “The hatred and fears have long since vanished and she and her husband lived full lives together; so it will be for the same-sex couples. It is time to let that beacon of freedom shine brighter on all our brothers and sisters. We will be stronger for it.”
Voters overwhelmingly passed Arkansas’ ban on same-sex marriage in 2004, adding an additional layer of support for traditional marriage laws passed in 1997.