Updated: 7:00 p.m. CDT
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The judge who struck down Arkansas’ same-sex marriage ban last year presided over one of its first same-sex weddings Friday after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that such bans are unconstitutional.
Pulaski County Judge Chris Piazza married two men in a brief ceremony in his Little Rock courtroom. He said it was the only same-sex he planned to conduct.
“I looked at their faces and realized how much this meant to them,” Piazza said.
The couple, Tony Chiaro, 73, and Earnie Matheson, 65, who have been together 26 years, said they sought out Piazza because of his ruling last year.
“We could have gone off and done it somewhere else … but it meant so much to do it here,” Matheson said.
The ruling comes a little over a year after Piazza struck down a 2004 voter-approved amendment and an earlier state law defining marriage as between a man and a woman. More than 500 couples were married in the week following Piazza’s ruling before it was suspended by the state Supreme Court pending a review.
Late Friday afternoon, Arkansas’ Supreme Court dismissed the state’s appeal of Piazza’s decision and said the case was moot now that the issue had been decided by the nation’s high court.
John Schenck and Robert Loyd, partners for 40 years, arrived at the Faulkner County courthouse in Conway at 9:04 a.m. in anticipation of the high court ruling. The couple was first married in Canada in 2004 and at 9:10 on Friday received a stamped Arkansas marriage license.
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County clerks around the state were told to begin issuing licenses to same-sex couples.
“It is the law of the land now,” said Chris Villines, executive director of the Association of Arkansas Counties. The group told county clerks, “it is our opinion that … they will need to follow it.”
Grant and Boone counties said they would likely have to wait until next week before issuing licenses to same-sex couples. Grant County’s clerk was away from the office and Boone County was updating computer software to accommodate the change.