On Friday, a judge in Arkansas struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. The judge ruled that the ban violated the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause. Judge Chris Piazza said that the ban was an attempt by a majority to exclude a small minority, and would set a precedent he does not support. Although the prohibition on same-sex marriage was approved by a large voter majority, Piazza has referred to the recent United States Supreme Court case that struck down parts of a federal ban on same-sex marriage in defending his decision. At this time, Judge Piazza has not issued a stay on the decision. Same-sex couples could attempt to file for marriage as soon as Monday.
While Attorney General Dustin McDaniel publicly supports same-sex marriage, he has said that he is obligated to defend the ban in court. He expects to request a stay from Judge Piazza. Piazza has also cited the Supreme Court case Loving vs. Virginia in his decision. Forty years ago, Loving vs Virginia was a landmark case that struck down bans on interracial marriages across the country. In 2013, United States vs. Windsor became the LGBT equivalent to the Loving case.
Edith Windsor, a woman in her mid 80s, married her long-time partner Thea Spyer in Canada in 2007. The couple had been engaged for 40 years. When her partner died, Windsor was straddled with grief and burdened by a $600,000 debt that arose only because her partner was a woman. Roberta Kaplan, of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Warton & Garrison, defended Edith Windsor in a breakthrough case that has set the stage for human equality across the nation.
Currently there are dozens of lawsuits across 30 states seeking marriage equality for same-sex couples. The first state to recognize same-sex marriage was Massachusetts in 2004. 18 U.S. states and D.C. recognize same-sex marriage, while approximately 28 states have constitutional amendments that explicitly ban same-sex marriage. Ohio, Oregon, Indiana, and Missouri either fully or partially recognize marriages from out-of-state. Chad Griffin, President of the Human Rights Campaign, believes that Arkansas Judge Piazza’s ruling striking down the same-sex marriage ban in that state is a crucial step toward equality.
In Utah, a Mother’s Day ad aims to soften the hearts of families everywhere by proposing the similarities between same-sex couples and heterosexual couples. Wendy Matis, who has been married to her husband for 25 years, recently discovered her son is gay. In a heartfelt plea, Matis says that she simply wants her children to be a part of society, find a partner, and live a happy life. On December 20 of last year, Utah briefly recognized same-sex marriages but has since issued a stay as an appeal works its way through the court.
Judge Piazza’s decision to strike down a same-sex marriage ban in Arkansas is but one of many motions toward full, national LGBT equality that has been building momentum for a decade and was catapulted by the landmark Windsor case last year. While a stay is expected to be filed in the state, Arkansas may soon become one of the many states that will begin to legally, financially and morally recognize same-sex marriage.
By: James Ryder