"I want to tell you I do support marriage equality and I do believe Arkansans should have the right to be equal in the eyes of the law."'
A circuit court judge in Arkansas has struck down the state's ban on gay marriage, declaring it unconstitutional. The ruling will almost certainly now be appealed by the state.
"It is time to let that beacon of freedom shine brighter on all our brothers and sisters. We will be stronger for it," wrote Circuit Court Judge Chris Piazza in his ruling.
On Saturday, the first marriage license was issued to a gay couple in the state, the Associated Press reported.
Arkansas is only the latest red state to be faced with such a ruling. Texas, Virginia, Oklahoma and Utah have all recently had their gay marriage bans invalidated in a court of law, though all three of those decisions are now also facing appeals.
Less than one year since the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, which prevented federal agencies from recognizing same-sex nuptials, 18 states have embraced marriage equality and six more are in the midst of legal challenges that aim to give gays and lesbians the same rights as heterosexual couples to marry.
Piazza's decision is the product of a lawsuit against the Arkansas brought forth by 11 same-sex couples who reside in the state. Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, a Democrat, was left to defend the 2004 ban in court. However, he told the press earlier this week that he supports marriage equality.
"I want to tell you I do support marriage equality and I do believe Arkansans should have the right to be equal in the eyes of the law," he said.