US & Canada

Same-sex couples marry in US state of Arkansas

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Media captionCouples gave their reaction after tying the knot in the US state of Arkansas

The first same-sex couples have been married in the US state of Arkansas, after a judge threw out a voter-approved ban on gay marriage.

The roughly 100 couples were the first in the states of the traditionally conservative south-east to be wed.

Pulaski County circuit judge Chris Piazza ruled on Friday that the 2004 ban amounted to the unconstitutional "exclusion of a minority".

The state's attorney general has appealed against the ruling.

On Monday, Texas residents Shelly Butler and Susan Barr, who have been together for almost 30 years, became the first same-sex couple to receive a marriage license in the state of Arkansas, and thereby in the south-east region and the states of the Civil War-era Confederacy.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Firefighters Steven Gibson (left) and Mark Hightower celebrate marrying at the Pulaski County Courthouse

"I am just in shock, I think. You go from being so private and hidden to such a public display of commitment. It's just so nice," Ms Barr told the Associated Press.

Previously, judges in Kentucky and Virginia had ruled same-sex marriage bans in those states unconstitutional, but the rulings were stayed pending appeal before any couples could be wed.

Amid the uncertainty over whether Mr Piazza's ruling applied to all 75 counties in the state, the vast majority of county clerks declined on Monday to issue marriage licences to same-sex couples, preferring to wait until the state Supreme Court could rule.

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, a Democrat who recently announced his personal support for same-sex marriage, filed an appeal in the state Supreme Court against Mr Piazza's ruling.

Mr Piazza's ruling invalidated a 2004 state constitutional amendment that passed with overwhelming support, as well as a 1997 statute.

Including Arkansas, 18 states and Washington DC currently issue marriage licences to same-sex couples.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Barr, standing, and Butler travelled from Texas to wed in Little Rock on Monday

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