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Arkansas judge rules state ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional

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An Arkansas judge has declared that the state's ban on same-sex marriage violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Chris Piazza in Little Rock, Arkansas, ruled Friday that the 2007 amendment to the state's constitution — as well as a corresponding 1997 state law — illegally denies gay and lesbian couples their fundamental right to the same benefits and protections enjoyed by opposite-sex couples without “advancing any conceivable state interest necessary to support even a rational basis review.”

“The issue at hand is the fundamental right to marry being denied to an unpopular minority,” Judge Piazza said in his ruling. “This judiciary has failed such groups in the past.”

Eleven gay and lesbian couples sued the state in August 2013 to have the marriage ban struck down as unconstitutional.

Judge Piazza's ruling makes Arkansas the seventh state to have its legal ban on same-sex marriage wholly or partially overturned since the beginning of the year. The other states are Texas, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Michigan, Virginia and Tennessee.

A spokesman for Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel confirmed over the weekend that the state intends to appeal the decision, as well as request a stay of implementation pending the outcome of the case.