Arkansas court halts gay marriages pending appeal

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffin married Allan Cox, left, and Steve Thomas, right, in Little Rock on Monday Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffin married Allan Cox, left, and Steve Thomas, right, in Little Rock on Monday

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The Supreme Court of the US state of Arkansas has halted same-sex marriages pending an appeal against a lower court ruling overturning a voter-backed ban.

On Friday the court suspended the ruling by a Pulaski County circuit judge, but it was unclear whether his ruling applied to other counties.

Since the courthouses opened on Monday, hundreds of gay couples have wed.

This is the latest in a stream of cases where same-sex couples have challenged state-level bans on gay marriage.

The state has appealed against the ruling by Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza.

Couples gave their reaction after tying the knot in the US state of Arkansas

He found that a 2004 state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and a 1997 ban in the state statutes amounted to "the exclusion of a minority for no rational reason".

Unlike in other states where rulings overturning same-sex marriage bans were quickly suspended pending appeal, Mr Piazza refused to delay the application of his ruling, making Arkansas the first state of the conservative south-east region to allow gay marriage.

Since Monday morning when the courthouses opened, more than 450 gay couples have wed, according to the Associated Press news agency.

The Arkansas Supreme Court ruling on Friday halted distribution of new marriage licences to same-sex couples until the court can hear an appeal against Mr Piazza's decision.

For now, the marriages that have already been performed are unaffected.

Same-sex marriage supporters' arguments stem out of a June 2013 US Supreme Court ruling, United States v Windsor, in which the high court overturned a federal law that restricted the federal definition of marriage to that of a man and a woman.

Since December, federal judges in Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia, Michigan and Idaho have ruled bans in those states unconstitutional, but the rulings have been suspended until appeals can be heard by the higher, regional appeals courts.

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