Circuit Judge Chris Piazza, who issued the landmark ruling against the Arkansas same-sex marriage ban last May, married a couple who applied for a license today after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling and commented to assembled reporters on the case.
Piazza said he normally only married friends and family, but said he’d agreed to marry Earnie Matheson and Anthony Chiaro after they came to his office and he “saw the looks on their faces.”
He said he had felt “pretty firm” his opinion was right, though the Arkansas Supreme Court has not yet been heard from on the case. It took an appeal of Piazza’s ruling on an expedited basis and reached a decision Nov. 20, but then failed to complete an opinion by Jan. 1, when membership of the court changed. Subsequent machinations related to the change in personnel have contributed to a delay in the ruling.
Piazza was optimistic about the future.
“I think what you’ll find over time is that people will accept this. …. America is a wonderful place. The Constitution of the United States was drafted by some brilliant people and if you go back and read it, some of their decisions and how they went about it and what they intended for the future, you’ll understand that this was an evolving document.”
He went on to say the issue was decided by the Supreme Court “really back when they said Caucasians and African-Americans could marry. That’s the foundation of this. Once you realize that due process applies to all of us equally, it’s a slippery slide to this decision.”
He said he’d lived with the decision for over a year. “There’s been a lot of criticism. There has been some editorial writing against me. People running for president of the United States have been particularly hostile toward this concept. But the truth of the matter is, I know in my church we have a loving community. We believe that love is the answer to society’s problems. I don’t feel it’s exceptional what I did in this case.”
He said he was moved by a dissent in the infamous Dred Scott case, which perpetuated slavery. That justice said slaves were not mere chattel, but people made in the image of their maker. “What I realized is that there had been voices in our country, from its inception, who have spoken up against injustice and sometimes it takes a little bit of courage to make that pronouncement.” (Piazza had to know that some critics of this decision, such as Mike Huckabee, were likening it to Dred Scott, as if perpetuation of discrimination was just.)