Arkansas Judge Supports Gay Marriage


Arkansas’ Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza supports gay marriage, and has now paved the way for same-sex couples to get married in the state. After a state ban was voted into law in 2004, Piazza has since deemed there was no real logical reason to disallow these couples equal access to marriage.

Judge Piazza ruled Friday that the amendment to the state constitution approved by Arkansas voters a decade ago is in direct violation to the rights of same-sex couples. As other judges have done in other states, Piazza refused to put his ruling on hold. Because of the ruling, gay couples can now start to seek out marriage licenses as soon as Saturday. However, they would need to find a county clerk who supports gay marriage, and who is willing to issue out these licenses to them.

Ruling the original ban as an illegal attempt to undermine equality in the law, Judge Piazza explains that excluding a minority from equal access for no logical reason is a dangerous practice to allow. According to Piazza, this is true despite 75 percent of the state population voting in favor of the ban a decade ago.

The ruling came this week after State Attorney General Dustin McDaniel made the public announcement that he personally supports gay marriage and planned to overturn the law, although he would have to continue to uphold the state ban while in a court of law. He had asked Piazza to suspend the law during the appeal. McDaniel had sought the halt because he knew that questions on the validity of the ruling would follow after the halt. Dustin McDaniel, a Democrat in his last year as the Arkansas state attorney general, is the very first elected official in the state to publicly announce support for gay marriage and rights.

As Piazza’s ruling came later in the evening on Friday, the Pulaski County marriage office had already closed for the day. If Piazza’s ruling is not put on hold, then those seeking marriage licenses can start obtaining them during normal business hours next week. Due to the state’s early period for voting during May, many county clerk offices will start to be opened on Saturdays, giving couples the opportunity to wed on the weekend as well.

In Piazza’s ruling, he referred to the case of Mildred Loving who was able to marry who she wanted, after the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated interracial marriage laws in 1967. He stated that the long-past past fears and hatred have vanished over the years since interracial marriage was allowed, stating that the same will be for same-sex couples.

Naming Piazza as someone who supports equality and a judge who “ruled on the right side of history,” Kathy Henson and her girlfriend Angelia Buford had previously sued to overturn the marriage ban. However, the couple now plans to obtain a marriage license in a nearby county as soon as the clerk offices open.

As the Arkansas judge supports gay marriage, other Federal judges have ruled against constitutional bans in states, including Michigan, Oklahoma, Utah, Texas and Virginia, also demanding that Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee recognize gay marriages certificates from other states. According to advocacy groups for gay marriage, there are currently more than 70 lawsuits seeking marriage equality, and remain pending in 30 other states. Attorney generals who are Democrats in several other states have also refused to upheld bans on gay marriage.

By Scott Gaudinier

NBC News
The Washington Post
The Huffington Post