Four Takeaways from Arkansas’ Same-Sex Marriage Case

I really love when I get to share news like this. 

We got word on Friday that Arkansas lost its right to ban same-sex marriages. State court Judge Christopher Piazza struck down the state’s 2004 constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriages.

As always, I have some takeaways for you:

1. Arkansas’ ban does not advance any conceivable legitimate state interest: As we continue to see marriage bans struck down in both state and federal courts, the language regarding the lack of basis for these laws continues to get stronger. Judge Piazza wrote:

“Arkansas’ s marriage laws discriminate against same-sex couples in violation of the Equal Protection Clause because they do not advance any conceivable legitimate state interest necessary to support even a rational basis review.” He added, “The exclusion of a minority for no rational reason is a dangerous precedent.”

I’ve written before about how Equal Protection Cases require varying levels of scrutiny. But at this point, judges are ruling that these bans on gay marriage don’t even meet the minimum level of required scrutiny.  Judge Piazza concluded, “same-sex couples are a morally disliked minority, and the constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage is driven by animus rather than a rational basis.”

2. Complete Equality May Take Decades: Judge Piazza referenced many of the recent cases involving marriage equality and of course Windsor. He also cited the famous marriage case Loving v. Virginia, where in 1967 the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Virginia’s ban on interracial marriage. He wrote,

“It has been over forty years since Mildred Loving was given the right to marry the person of her choice. The hatred and fears have long since vanished and she and her husband lived full lives together; so it will be for the same-sex couples.”

While I would love to believe that the “hatred and fears have long since vanished” for interracial couples, reality paints a different picture. You may remember the recent hubbub over the Cheerios commercial that used an interracial couple. Even though Cheerios says the overwhelming response to the commercial was positive, the fact that they had to take down their comment sections for the commercial indicates that a good amount of hatred and fear still exists almost 50 years later. It also goes to show that despite the progress same-sex marriage makes now, it’s going to be a long road before equality will actually feel equal.

3.  No Stay on Marriages:  In an interesting divergence from the most recent cases, Judge Piazza did not immediately stay his decision, paving the way for Arkansas same-sex couples to get married on Saturday. The Los Angeles Times reported that nearly 20 of the more than 70 couples who lined up in Carroll County succeeded in marrying. We have to wait and see whether the 69 counties not named in the lawsuit will issue marriage licenses, given that the order does not directly affect them. (Carroll County was not named in the suit but decided to issue licenses.) In addition, the state filed its appeal on Saturday and asked for a stay. We will find out  the repercussions of both scenarios as the day goes on. 

4. 70 Suits Law Suites Have Been Filed: The Human Rights Campaign stated more than 70 lawsuits challenging marriage bans have been filed in 29 states and Puerto Rico. Only Alaska, Montana, and the Dakotas have not faced lawsuits. All of this litigation should spur the United States Supreme Court to clarify what rights should be afforded and to gay and lesbian couples nation wide.

You can read the entire ruling here. Yet another great step for marriage equality!