Judge strikes down Ark. gay marriage ban

An Arkansas Judge struck down the state's ban on gay marriage Friday afternoon, the latest in a flurry of similar rulings around the nation. 

Pulaski County, Ark., Judge Christopher Piazza ruled the state law and constitutional amendment banning gay marriage violated the equal protection clause of the Constitution. 

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In his opinion, he said, "the difference between opposite-sex and same-sex families is within the privacy of their homes."

“The court is not unmindful of the criticism that judges should not be super legislators. However, the issue at hand is the fundamental right to marry being denied to an unpopular minority,” he wrote in his 13-page opinion.  

“Our judiciary has failed such groups in the past," he wrote alluding to the 1857 Dred Scott decision, which held that black men could not be considered citizens of the United States. 

Arkansas became the sixth state to overturn its ban since the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act last year, all are pending appeal. A number of other states have struck down their state restrictions on recognizing gay marriages performed in other states. 

Piazza concluded it has been more than 40 years since the Loving v. Virginia Supreme Court decision that first upheld the right of interracial marriage for Mildred Loving. 

“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," he wrote. 

The case involved 12 same-sex couples that wished to marry in the state, as well as eight couples married in other states that wanted Arkansas to recognize them as legitimate. With the ruling, the judge invalidated a 1997 law and a 2004 constitutional amendment that was approved by referendum. 

Aside from Arkansas, 17 states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriage, not including state bans that have been struck down pending appeal. While the Arkansas attorney general recently said he supports gay marriage, his office will defend the state constitution and appeal the decision, according to The Associated Press.