County Clerk will not issue same sex marriage licenses

Faulkner County Clerk Melinda Reynolds stated Sunday that she would not begin issuing mariage licenses for same sex couples following a ruling by Circuit Judge Chris Piazza that declared the ban on same sex marriages unconstitutional.

Faulkner County Attorney David Hogue released a statement from Reynolds that said that Piazza's ruling does not strike down state law and until the State Supreme Court rules in the matter, she will abstain from issuing licenses.

Piazza paved the way for the marriages Friday with a ruling that removed a 10-year-old barrier, saying a constitutional amendment overwhelmingly passed by voters in 2004 banning gay marriage was "an unconstitutional attempt to narrow the definition of equality." Piazza's ruling also overturned a 1997 state law banning gay marriage.

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel announced his intent to appeal to the high court late Saturday night, but not before 15 licenses were issued for same-sex couples in northwest Arkansas' Carroll County.

According to Reynolds' statement, "Piazza did not grant the Plaintiff's request for an injunction barring the Defendats from enforcement of Act 146 of 1997 ... as they requested. Even if he had, Reynolds was dismissed from the action before final arguments were made, denying her an opportunity to defend her position. As she was not a final party to the case, the judgment cannot be enforced against her."

Reynolds' statement also pointed out that the circuit court cannot establish or strike down statewide law, and she will not change her practice until the law changes, only after the state Supreme Court rules.

McDaniel has asked Piazza to suspend his ruling, but also formally said late Saturday he wants the state Supreme Court to take up the matter. That appeal has not yet been filed.

But because Piazza didn't issue a stay, Arkansas' 75 county clerks were left to decide for themselves whether to grant marriage licenses. That caused confusion among county clerks, Association of Arkansas Counties executive director Chris Villines said.

"The court didn't give us any time to get the kinks worked out," he said.

It isn't clear how many counties would issue same-sex marriage licenses Monday, Villines said Saturday after a conference call with clerks from around the state.

The U.S. Supreme Court last year ruled that a law forbidding the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages was unconstitutional. Using language similar to that from the Supreme Court, state and federal judges nationwide have struck down other same-sex marriage bans and ordered states to recognize same-sex marriages from other states.

Jerry Cox, president of the Arkansas Family Council, which promoted Arkansas' ban, said Piazza's decision to not suspend his ruling will create confusion if a stay is issued.

"Are these people married? Are they unmarried?" Cox said. "Judge Piazza did a tremendous disservice to the people of Arkansas by leaving this in limbo."

McDaniel last week became the first statewide elected official to announce he personally supports gay marriage rights, but would continue to defend the state's ban in court.

The Associated Press contributed to this report


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