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Marriage equality Arkansas: First gay marriage licenses issued in Little Rock

It was an early, but celebratory morning for same-sex couples in Arkansas. According to a report by the Associated Press, couples lined up before dawn Monday as the state’s largest county began issuing gay marriage licenses following a judge’s ruling on Friday that overturned Arkansas’ constitutional ban as unconstitutional.

Gay marriage rights have been recognized by popular vote, court rulings or state legislatures in California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Rhode I
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The couples lined up outside Little Rock’s courthouse to obtain their marriage licenses just 48 hours after Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza made their marriage dreams come true with his decision on Friday. Overturning the voter-approved ban on gay marriages allowed Shelly Bulter, 51, and Susan Barr, 48, to become the first couple to obtain a marriage license which was handed out just after 8 a.m. Although the state is expected to appeal the decision, Butler jumped at the opportunity to legally marry her partner.

She told the AP, “When we heard the news in Arkansas, we had to jump in the car to get here. I’m just excited to marry my best friend of almost 30 years, finally.” All the couples who lined up on Monday morning in Little Rock and the 15 same-sex couples who already obtained their marriage licenses Saturday in the town of Eureka Springs shared those same sentiments.

Unlike previous states like Utah, Oklahoma and Texas who have seen judges overturn their bans, Piazza did not issue a stay in a state and left is up to the state’s 75 county clerks to decide whether to grant marriage licenses. In Piazza’s decision on Friday, he stated that the ban on gay marriage was “an unconstitutional attempt to narrow the definition of equality.”

But the ban, passed by voters in 2004, is expected to be defended as Attorney General Dustin McDaniel announced that he will ask the Arkansas Supreme Court to review Piazza’s decision. McDaniel is defending the ban despite personally being in favor of same-sex marriage. In the meantime, many couples are saying, “I do” in the state of Arkansas, the 22nd state in the U.S. where gay marriage is legal.

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