Be my rock in Little Rock
The gay-marriage juggernaut rolls on
WHAT do Arkansas and Idaho have in common? Both have rural charm—Idaho's licence plates even boast of its “Famous Potatoes”. Both vote Republican in presidential elections. And both have just legalised gay marriage.
In both states, the decision was made by a judge rather than voters, and could be reversed. But it is getting harder to see same-sex nuptials as an odd new custom confined to coastal liberal bastions. If the new rules in Arkansas and Idaho stand, that would make it 19 states plus Washington, DC that now recognise marriage equality. Over 70 lawsuits, in nearly every state that does not yet allow gay marriage, are working their way through the courts, encouraged by a Supreme-Court ruling last year striking down the federal Defence of Marriage Act.
It has all happened faster than campaigners dared to hope. In Arkansas, a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage passed ten years ago with 75% of the vote. Social conservatives were elated, expecting the law to stand indefinitely. But on May 9th Chris Piazza, a circuit judge in Pulaski County, ruled the ban unconstitutional.
Religious conservatives were shocked. Mike Huckabee, an ex-governor of Arkansas, called for Judge Piazza to be impeached. Jerry Cox, president of the Arkansas Family Council, said: “The marriage of one man to one woman has been a cornerstone of western civilisation for thousands of years... once people start redefining marriage, there seems to be no place to stop.”
Mr Piazza's ruling opened the door for all 75 counties in the state to issue marriage licences to gay couples. Most county clerks opted not to, noting that the ruling, confusingly, failed to address another state law that banned issuing such licences. But some 450 same-sex couples queued up in Pulaski and four other counties to get their precious pieces of paper. “We were hopeful that the law would be overturned some day, but we were completely stunned...that it came when it did,” says Barbara Hall, who married her long-time partner on May 12th in the courthouse rotunda. “We already had plans to marry in New York this summer after a ceremony here in Little Rock, never imagining a day when we could marry here.”