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Judge: Arkansas must recognize in-state same-sex marriages

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The ruling comes as the U.S. Supreme Court is nearing a decision on whether to legalize gay marriage nationwide. Judges across the country have ruled against bans similar to Arkansas’ since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of a federal anti-gay marriage law in June 2013. Gay marriage is now legal in more than half of U.S. states.

The Arkansas Supreme Court hasn’t indicated when it will rule on gay marriage. Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza struck down as unconstitutional a 2004 voter-approved same-sex marriage ban and an earlier state law defining marriage as between a man and a woman. Justices suspended his decision a week later, halting the marriages.

Justices last month denied the state’s request for new oral arguments in the case and declined to lift their stay on Piazza’s decision.

The attorney general’s office argued before Griffen Monday that the marriages weren’t valid because Piazza’s initial ruling didn’t specifically strike down a state law barring clerks from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Piazza struck down that law in a subsequent ruling six days later.

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Griffen rejected that argument, saying it was clear that Piazza meant to strike down any prohibition on same-sex marriage.

“Put simply, Judge Piazza’s intent in his May 9 order was to stop the state of Arkansas from prohibiting same-sex couples from being married,” he wrote.

The order is here.

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