In 2004, Arkansas voters easily approved an amendment to the state Constitution prohibiting legal recognition of same-sex couples. In fact, when voters went to the polls, it passed by a three-to-one margin.
But what is popular is not always right.
A Pulaski County circuit judge on Friday declared Arkansas’ ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional.Judge Chris Piazza issued the ruling in a lawsuit filed by several same-sex couples. The state attorney general’s office is expected to file an appeal.
For context, it’s worth noting that Arkansas’ attorney general, Dustin McDaniel (D), supports marriage equality, but said just a week ago that he feels compelled to defend the discriminatory state law.
In his court order today, the judge concluded, “Arkansas’ marriage laws discriminate against same-sex couples in violation of the Equal Protection Clause because they do not advance any conceivable legitimate state interest necessary to support even a rational-basis review.”
For those keeping track, opponents of marriage equality have been on an extraordinary and uninterrupted losing streak over the last year.
Just last month, for example, a federal judge ordered Ohio to recognize same-sex marriages from other states. The month before that, a federal judge struck down Michigan’s ban on marriage equality.
Civil-rights proponents have scored related victories in Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Utah and Texas, just over the last half-year or so.
As for Arkansas, this afternoon’s ruling will be quickly appealed. If today’s decision is upheld, Arkansas will be the 19th state to extend equal marriage rights to all.