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Couples ask Arkansas Supreme Court court to strike down gay marriage ban

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Attorneys for gay couples challenging Arkansas’ same-sex marriage ban told the state’s highest court on Tuesday that the U.S. Supreme Court signaled it agrees with their argument that such prohibitions are unconstitutional by declining to take up similar cases.

Arkansas-flagThe 20 couples asked the Arkansas Supreme Court to uphold Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza’s ruling striking down a 2004 constitutional amendment and earlier state law defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

Piazza’s ruling led to 541 gay couples receiving marriage licenses before the decision was suspended by the state Supreme Court.

The couples challenging the ban cited the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision Monday to reject appeals from five states that sought to prohibit gay marriage. That decision effectively raised the number of states allowing the practice from 19 to 30.

The action “sends a strong signal that the court agrees that marriage bans and anti-recognition laws do, in fact, violate the United States Constitution,” the attorneys wrote in the brief.

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel’s office argued in a brief filed last month that Piazza was wrong to find a part of the state’s constitution was itself unconstitutional. McDaniel, a Democrat serving his last year in office, has said he supports gay marriage but will defend the state’s ban in court.

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The couples said the ban intentionally discriminates against same-sex couples and argued the state has no “rational foundation” for the ban.

“Today, this requirement is a vestige of the outdated notion – long rejected in other aspects by the Arkansas Legislature and courts – that a person’s gender is relevant to his or her qualifications for marriage or role as a spouse,” they wrote.

It’s unclear when the court will rule. The attorneys also filed a motion requesting oral arguments before justices. The couples are challenging the ban in federal court.

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