[JURIST] A judge for Arkansas’ Pulaski County Circuit Court [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Friday that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, striking down both the Arkansas General Assembly Act 144 of 1997 and the 2004 Amendment 83 of the Arkansas State Constitution [text, PDF]. Reviewing not only state and federal constitutional arguments, but also interstate analysis on the issue, Judge Chris Piazza applied [academic review] heightened scrutiny as a minimal standard of review. The court held that any discernment of marriage rights based on gender is a violation of the Equal Protection Clause [Cornell LII backgrounder], regardless of the level of scrutiny applied. Relying on a multitude of famous cases from the US Supreme Court [official website], as well as state courts that have recently struck down [JURIST news archive] same-sex marriage bans, Piazza noted in his 13-page opinion:
It has been over forty years since Mildred Loving was given the right to marry the person of her choice. 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.
The first Arkansas marriage license for a same-sex couple was issued [TIME report] Saturday, less than 24 hours after the opinion was electronically filed. The Arkansas Attorney General [official website] has yet to release an official statement regarding any appeal prospects, but several sources indicated that the attorney general intends to request a stay of the opinion pending appeal.
Same-sex marriage [JURIST backgrounder] is one of the most hotly debated topics in the legal community today. Earlier this week Indiana was ordered to recognize an out-of-state same-sex marriage pending an appeal. In March the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] against the state of Indiana challenging the state’s ban on same-sex marriages and its refusal to recognize same-sex marriages legally performed in other states. The lawsuit [complaint, PDF], one of three filed recently in attempts to overturn Indiana’s ban on gay marriage, was filed on behalf of 15 plaintiffs [ACLU profiles], including a widow and two children. In February the Indiana Senate [official website] approved [JURIST report] a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would prohibit same-sex marriage in the state.