U.S. district judges struck down same-sex marriage bans as unconstitutional in Arkansas and Mississippi on Tuesday, overturning measures voters had overwhelmingly approved in both socially conservative Southern states.
The two judges, Kristine Baker in Little Rock, Arkansas, and Carlton Reeves in Jackson, Mississippi, ruled that the prohibitions against gay matrimony in their states denied guarantees of equal protection under the law for same-sex couples.
The back-to-back decisions were the latest in a flurry of recent court rulings striking down statutes and state constitutional amendments across the United States defining marriage as a union exclusively between a man and a woman.
“These laws impose unconstitutional classifications on the basis of gender in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution,” Baker wrote in her decision.
Both judges put their rulings on hold for the time being, meaning legal recognition of marriage for gay and lesbian couples was not imminent in either state.
Reeves stayed his ruling for two weeks to allow Mississippi officials time to bring an appeal.
(Reporting by By Steve Barnes and Emily Le Coz; Additional reporting by Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas; Writing by Jonathan Kaminsky; Editing by Steve Gorman and Paul Tait)