Arkansas issues same-sex marriage licenses

A group of protesters gathered outside President Barack Obama's fundraising event in Beverly Hills on May 27, 2010 asking him to overturn the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy. Two supporters of the LGBT community are pictured waving a rainbow flag.

EUREKA SPRINGS, Ark. — Gay marriage arrived in the Bible Belt on Saturday, with Arkansas being the latest state to issue marriage licenses.

The Associated Press reported that 15 marriage licenses have been issued for same-sex couples in northwest Arkansas’ Carroll County.

Jennifer Rambo and Kristin Seaton, a former volleyball player at the University of Arkansas, traveled overnight to make sure they’d be the first in line.

“We just walked out of here crying,” Rambo said.

A state judge on Friday declared Arkansas’ voter-approved measure to ban gay marriage unconstitutional.

Twenty-one gay and lesbian couples were part of a group of plaintiffs challenging Amendment 83 to the Arkansas constitution, saying it violated their federal and state rights of equal protection and privacy.

“Our freedoms are often acquired slowly, but our country has evolved as a beacon of liberty in what is sometimes a dark world. These freedoms include a right to privacy,” said Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza. “It is time to let that beacon of freedom shine brighter on all our brothers and sisters. We will be stronger for it.”

The ruling continues a near-unbroken string of state and federal court victories nationwide in the past year, giving marriage-equality supporters unbridled encouragement that their ultimate goal will be achieved: eliminating all laws limiting the rights of homosexuals to wed.

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