State Judge Strikes Down AR Marriage Ban

Arkansas’ ban on same-sex marriage has been struck down, but by a state judge rather than a federal one. Much of the decision is based on the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, however. And the judge also explicitly said that LGBT people have “suspect class” status that triggers heightened review, though that wasn’t necessary to reach the decision.

Although marriage is not expressly identified as a fundamental right in the Constitution, the United States Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized it as such.r It has also consistently applied heightened scrutiny to laws that discriminate against groups considered to be a suspect or quasi-suspect classification (a group that has experienced a “history of purposeful unequal treatment or [has] been subjected to unique disabilities on the basis of stereotyped characteristics not truly indicative of their abilities.”). Courts consider whether the characteristics that distinguish the class indicate a typical class member’s ability to contribute to society; whether the distinguishing characteristic is ‘immutable” or beyond the group member’s control; and whether the group is a minority or politically powerless.”

On this issue, this Court finds the rationale of De Leon v. Perry, Obergefell v. Wyrnyslo, and the extensive authority cited in both cases to be highly persuasive, leading to the undeniable conclusion that same-sex couples

fulfill all four factors to be considered a suspect or quasi-suspect classification. Therefore, at a minimum, heightened scrutiny must be applied to this Court’s review of the Arkansas marriage laws. Regardless of the level of review required, 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. Under this standard, the laws must proscribe conduct in a manner that is rationally related to the achievement of a legitimate governmental purpose. “[S]ome objectives … are not legitimate state interests” and, even when a law is justified by an ostensibly legitimate purpose, “[t]he State may not rely on a classification whose relationship to an asserted goal is so attenuated as to render the distinction arbitrary or irrational.”

Naturally, some Arkansas legislators and anti-gay activists are demanding that the judge be impeached. You can read the full ruling here.

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  • daved

    Well, at least not all the members of the Arkansas legislature are nuts. From the linked story:

    Even if House Republicans could convince [Gov.] Beebe to call a special session to consider articles of impeachment against Piazza, Speaker of the House Davy Carter, R-Cabot, said he would put a stop to any move toward impeachment, adding that his action would have nothing to do with Piazza’s ruling.

    “Notwithstanding the controversial subject matter of the decision, we are not going to impeach the circuit judge because members of the House don’t like the decision,” he said. “That’s just not going to happen. That’s a slippery slope. That’s why we have separation of powers. That’s the most absurd thing I’ve ever heard.”

    Carter continued, again stating, “I’m telling you that it’s not going to happen.”

  • sigurd jorsalfar

    How long has impeachment been the remedy in the US for a judge’s decision that one doesn’t like? When were appeals abolished? Can someone fill me in?

  • eric

    the judge also explicitly said that LGBT people have “suspect class” status that triggers heightened review

    At least until a similar case reaches the supreme court, then I’m guessing suspect class status will be chucked out the window. This is the SCOTUS that decided that the south had gotten rid of all its schooling and voting racial inequities, after all. If they don’t think anti-black inequities in the south deserve heightened review, I doubt they’re going to give heigtened review to suspected anti-gay bigotry.

  • samihawkins

    So who else read the title and thought this was about marrying your assault rifle?

  • A Masked Avenger

    Although marriage is not expressly identified as a fundamental right in the Constitution…

    I do get fucking tired of this. Urinating is not a fundamental right in the Constitution, either. I’d like to believe that the tenth amendment means something, and that the onus is on the federal government to justify its restriction of our actions, and not on us to prove that it’s OK to allow us to take a bloody piss. But yes, I realize that ship sailed a long time ago.

  • Ben P

    As a reasonably liberal Arkansan, my facebook has been overflowing with posts related to this and the subsequent issuing of marriage licenses until the stay goes in place.

    I’ve appeared before the judge (Chris Piazza) and he has a good reputation. He is also elected in a liberal district, so this decision won’t hurt him.

    More broadly, Arkansas has a fairly unique history for a southern state, primarily under our own state constitution. Our State Supreme COurt has established a strong privacy right, and they struck down a state sodomy statute on that ground almost two years before the U.S. Supreme Court decided Lawrence. The State Supreme Court also overturned a de-facto gay adoption ban two years ago (technically it was a ban on “unmarried cohabitating adults” adopting).

    I’d wager the Arkansas Supreme Court upholds this, but they will issue a stay. Then, because its a federal rights case, it will depend on what the Federal Supreme Court says in one of the several different pending cases.

  • democommie

    “So who else read the title and thought this was about marrying your assault rifle?”

    I thought it meant that you could get married with the whole wedding party locked’n’loaded on the “3 round burst” setting.

    I was a little sadstalgic, thinking about all of the wonderful “shotgun weddings” of the past.

  • Markita Lynda—threadrupt

    Judge Candy has refused to issue a stay, saying that an appeal would likely fail on its merits.