Dec 23, 7:30 PM EST

Arkansas to appeal federal gay marriage ruling

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) -- Arkansas' attorney general filed a notice in federal court Tuesday that he will appeal a judge's ruling that said voters were wrong to ban gay marriage during a referendum 10 years ago.

U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker had ruled Nov. 25 that Arkansas' gay-marriage ban and separate law restricting marriages to one man and one woman were unconstitutional. She delayed enforcement of her order and gave the state until Friday to appeal.

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel said in a statement Tuesday that he had hoped the Arkansas Supreme Court would have ruled by now in a similar but separate case that justices heard last month.

"Had they done so, their guidance would have been helpful," McDaniel said in a statement.

A Pulaski County judge voided Arkansas' bans in May, triggering 541 same-sex marriages - the first in the Deep South. Justices imposed a stay a week later, pending their own review.

McDaniel has said he personally supports same-sex marriages but that his job is to serve as the state's chief lawyer.

"I believe it is necessary to file this notice, in keeping with my obligation to oppose all challenges to our State Constitution," McDaniel said. The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis hears federal court challenges from Arkansas.

Arkansas voters passed the gay marriage ban in 2004 by a 3-to-1 margin. Baker said that while it's proper for voters to make laws, they could not impose unconstitutional ones.

During the week when gay marriages were allowed in Arkansas, 69 of the state's 75 counties refused to grant any, saying they wanted the state Supreme Court to weigh in first.

In separate hearings, Baker and the justices heard appeals in the gay marriage cases. Baker ruled within a week. The state Supreme Court has not said when it would rule, but the makeup of the court changes Jan. 1, with two new justices joining the court.

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