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Federal Judge Rules for Marriage Equality in Arkansas

Federal Judge Rules for Marriage Equality in Arkansas

Federal Judge Rules for Marriage Equality in Arkansas

The ruling will likely be appealed to a higher court, but same-sex marriages may resume in Arkansas.

A federal judge today ruled to overturn Arkansas's voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage, the same decision a state-level court made in a separate case.

U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker ruled that the 2004 ban violated the U.S. Constitution, "precluding same-sex couples from exercising their fundamental right to marry in Arkansas, by not recognizing valid same-sex marriages from other states, and by discriminating on the basis of gender." Baker's ruling has been put on hold, however, as the state will likely take the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, the Associated Press reports.

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, a Democrat leaving office in January after reaching term limits, argued that marriage was not a constitutional right. He has said he personally supports marriage equality but was duty-bound to defend the voter-approved initiative.

The ban is facing a separate challenge, in which Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza invalidated the prohibition on same-sex marriage in May. Piazza did not place a hold on his ruling, though it was published after county clerks' offices had closed for the weekend. There was a week-long window of time when 541 same-sex couples in Arkansas got married before a stay was issued by the state Supreme Court. An appeal of Piazza's decision is pending before the high court.

"It has been over forty years since Mildred Loving was given the right to marry the person of her choice," Piazza wrote in his decision earlier this year. "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."

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Michelle Garcia