The Arkansas Attorney General has announced his support for equal marriage, but says he will continue defend the state’s same-sex marriage ban in court.

Dustin McDaniel, a Democrat, said that it was his duty to defend the state’s 2004 constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, despite personally supporting marriage equality.

He said: “I want to tell you I do support marriage equality and I do believe Arkansans should have the right to be equal in the eyes of the law.

“I’m going to zealously defend our constitution, but at the same time I think it’s important to let people where I stand on the matter.”

According to the Houston Chronicle, McDaniel is the first statewide official in Arkansas to back same-sex marriage.

A case aiming to strike down the state’s same-sex marriage ban was heard last month, and Judge Chris Piazza is expected to give a ruling by the end of next week.

McDaniel, who briefly ran for governor last year, said he would not campaign for ending the ban while serving as attorney general.

The 2004 constitutional amendment, which states that “marriage consists only of the union of one man and one woman”, was passed with 75% of the vote at the time.

His position contrasts with Oregon’s Attorney General, Ellen Rosenblum, who declined to defend a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, leaving a case to overturn it unopposed.

Same-sex marriage is currently legal in 17 states and the District of Columbia, and decisions striking down bans are stayed pending appeal in several other states.