U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker, an Obama appointee, wrote in a 45-page decision that Arkansas’ prohibition on gay nuptials, known as Amendment 83, violates the fundamental right to marriage protected by Due Process Clause and Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
“As demonstrated, a most searching examination of Separate Defendants’ proposed reasons for Arkansas’s marriage laws reveals that these laws are not narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling state interest,” Baker writes. “The bases Separate Defendants suggest for upholding Amendment 83 and the challenged statutes, primarily encouraging procreation and ensuring the best interests of children, in addition to the laws’ mismatched means, do not withstand strict scrutiny.”
However, Baker dismisses the challenge posed to Amendment 83 based on right to travel and claims of discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Baker includes a stay as part of her decision until resolution of appeals before the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, so same-sex couples still won’t be able to wed in Arkansas for the time being.
The decision from a federal court against Arkansas’ ban on same-sex marriage comes months after a decision from a state circuit court striking down the state’s prohibition on gay nuptials. Although same-sex couples began marrying in Arkansas following that decision, the Arkansas Supreme Court later halted the weddings pending appeal of the state litigation.
A spokesman for Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, a Democrat, said he’s reviewing the ruling and a decision on whether to appeal will be made after Thanksgiving and in consultation with Republican Attorney General-elect Leslie Rutledge, according to the Associated Press. McDaniel’s office didn’t respond to the Washington Blade’s request to comment.