LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A judge cleared the way on Thursday for gay marriages to resume in Arkansas, striking down all state laws that prevent same-sex couples from wedding.
A day after the state Supreme Court effectively halted gay marriages in the conservative Bible Belt state, Pulaski County Judge Chris Piazza expanded his ruling striking down a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage to include the prohibition on clerks issuing same-sex marriage licenses.
Justices had ruled Wednesday that Piazza’s decision on the gay marriage ban did not change that license law.
Piazza also rejected a request to suspend his ruling, saying there’s no evidence the state would be harmed by allowing gay marriages to continue.
“The same cannot be said of the plaintiffs and other same-sex couples who have not been afforded the same measure of human dignity, respect and recognition by this state as their similarly situated, opposite sex counterparts,” Piazza wrote.
Pulaski County, one of two counties that had been issuing licenses before the high court’s decision, said it planned to resume marrying gay couples immediately. The other, Washington County, was not issuing licenses Thursday.
Through Wednesday evening, 456 gay couples in Arkansas had since received permission to marry, according to an Associated Press canvass of county clerks.
Seventeen other states allow gay marriage. Judges have struck down bans in Idaho, Michigan, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and Virginia.
Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel recently said he supported gay marriage personally but would still defend the state’s ban.
Also Thursday, a federal appeals court temporarily put plans for same-sex weddings in Idaho on hold.
The state’s gay marriage ban was overturned Tuesday when a U.S. District judge said the law unconstitutionally denied gay and lesbian residents their fundamental right to marry. The judge said Idaho must begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples starting Friday morning.
But the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday put the weddings on hold while it considers a request for a longer delay while the governor and attorney general appeal the case.