Arkansas gay marriage ban quashed

Spectators watch at the Pulaski County Court House in Little Rock Spectators watched the ruling at the Pulaski County Court House in Little Rock

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A judge in Arkansas has struck down the state's ban on same-sex marriage, saying the state has "no rational reason" for it.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza ruled that the amendment to the state constitution, approved by voters, violated same-sex couples' rights.

"This is an unconstitutional attempt to narrow the definition of equality," he wrote.

It's not clear how soon gay couples will be able to seek marriage licenses.

The judge did not put his ruling on hold, and one of the couples who sued over the ban said they hoped to wed quickly.

Kathy Henson said she and her girlfriend Angelia Buford planned to seek a marriage license as soon as offices opened.

"We think that [Piazza] did a really great job and that he ruled on the right side of history," she said.

Circuit Judge Chris Piazza Circuit Judge Chris Piazza cited the 1967 Supreme Court case on interracial marriage

"The exclusion of a minority for no rational reason is a dangerous precedent,'' the judge said.

In 2004, voters had overwhelmingly supported changing the constitution to define marriage as being only between a man and a woman.

Last week, Arkansas's Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, a Democrat, said he would defend the ban in court, despite personally supporting same-sex marriage.

His spokesman said he would appeal against the ruling and opponents of gay marriage expressed their disappointment.

"This ruling undermines marriage because once people start redefining marriage, there seems to be no place to stop," said Arkansas Family Council President Jerry Cox.

The US Supreme Court last year ruled that a law forbidding the federal government from recognising same-sex marriages was unconstitutional.

Bans on gay marriage have been quashed in recent months in Michigan, Texas, Utah, Oklahoma and Virginia, though appeals have put those cases on hold.

Federal judges have also ordered Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee to recognise same-sex marriages from other states.

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