Courts Dump Anti-Gay Marriage Laws in Arkansas, Mississippi

Both orders on hold, though, as states consider appeals
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 26, 2014 7:30 AM CST
Courts Dump Anti-Gay Marriage Laws in Arkansas, Mississippi
In this file photo taken Nov. 20, 2014, attorney Cheryl Maples, left, and her colleague, attorney Jack Wagoner, leave federal court in Little Rock, Ark.   (Danny Johnston)

Arkansas and Mississippi became the latest two states yesterday to have their gay marriage bans overturned by federal judges, but both orders are on hold for possible appeals. Both states had voter-approved constitutional amendments passed in 2004 that defined marriage as being between one man and one woman. In Arkansas, US District Judge Kristine Baker's ruling said that the amendment and state marriage laws violate the Constitution by "precluding same-sex couples from exercising their fundamental right to marry in Arkansas, by not recognizing valid same-sex marriages from other states, and by discriminating on the basis of gender." In Mississippi, which also has a 1997 law that bans same-sex marriage, US District Judge Carlton Reeves wrote, "Though we cherish our traditional values, they must give way to constitutional wisdom."

Judges across the country have ruled against bans similar to the one in Arkansas since the Supreme Court struck part of a federal anti-gay marriage law in June 2013, and gay marriage is now legal in more than half the US. Baker put her ruling on hold, anticipating an appeal; a spokesman for Attorney General Dustin McDaniel said he was reviewing the ruling with Attorney General-elect Leslie Rutledge and would decide whether to appeal. Mississippi officials have already said they planned to appeal any ruling that overturned the law. In the meantime, one of Mississippi's plaintiffs, Jocelyn Pritchett—who married Carla Webb in Maine in 2013—said yesterday that she, Webb, and their two young children were dancing around their living room after hearing about Reeves' ruling. "If gay marriage can be legal in Mississippi, the whole country can feel hope," Pritchett said. (More Arkansas stories.)

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