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Arkansas court won't set aside gay marriage ruling

Posted: May 14, 2014 - 6:33pm

LITTLE ROCK — The Arkansas Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected the state's request to put on hold a ruling that overturned Arkansas' ban on gay marriage, but it appears that unions between same-sex couples in the Bible Belt state may stop anyway.

Justices offered no direction to the state's county clerks, some of whom sought clarity after Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza found the 10-year-old ban unconstitutional last week. The court said simply that a law banning licenses for same-sex couples remains in place.

Even with that law in place, clerks in some counties had issued marriage licenses to more than 450 couples this week after Piazza's ruling. Two counties had been issuing licenses earlier Wednesday. After the court's ruling, Pulaski County — the state's largest and home to the capital, Little Rock — said it would stop.

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel went to the Supreme Court Monday complaining that county clerks didn't know whether Piazza's ruling applied to them. While Piazza tossed out the constitutional prohibition and a separate state law barring same-sex marriages, another law regulating the conduct of clerks remained. That law threatened fines if clerks issued licenses to same-sex couples.

If the court had issued a stay, the impact of Piazza's ruling would have been put on hold and gay marriages likely would have stopped. By not issuing a stay, counties still have no firm guidance — just the same knowledge they had before the ruling.

The attorney general's office said it would appeal the judge's decision at the appropriate time.

"County clerks have been uncertain about their responsibilities and couples unable to know definitively whether their marriage will remain valid," spokesman Aaron Sadler said in a statement. "A stay issued by either the Supreme Court or Judge Piazza would have brought some certainty. Unfortunately, today's decision did not do that."

Piazza had ruled last week that a voter-approved gay marriage ban was unconstitutional, but didn't issue a stay. Clerks in five counties — Carroll, Marion, Pulaski, Saline and Washington — issued 456 licenses since then, but only Pulaski and Washington, home to Fayetteville and the University of Arkansas, did so Tuesday and Wednesday.

The Washington County clerk, who was among those seeking clarity from the court, could not be reached Wednesday night.

The other 70 counties did not issue licenses to gay couples, with many saying the Supreme Court needed to weigh in.

The Supreme Court also dismissed McDaniel's appeal of Piazza's ruling, saying it was premature because Piazza hadn't issued a final order.

More than three-quarters of Arkansas voters approved the state's constitutional ban on gay marriage in 2004. In Piazza's ruling, which cleared the way for the first same-sex marriages in the Bible Belt, the judge said the ban violates the rights of same-sex couples.

"This is an unconstitutional attempt to narrow the definition of equality," Piazza wrote. "The exclusion of a minority for no rational reason is a dangerous precedent."

Carroll County, home to the tourist town of Eureka Springs, was the first to offer marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Fifteen licenses were issued the day after Piazza's ruling, but the county stopped handing out the licenses Monday. Pulaski County started issuing licenses Monday morning.

McDaniel recently that he supported gay marriage personally but would still defend the state's ban.

Seventeen other states allow gay marriage. Judges have struck down bans in Idaho, Michigan, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and Virginia.

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Raving Bear
632
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Raving Bear 05/14/14 - 08:07 pm
3
1
Kudos to the supreme court,

Kudos to the supreme court, last thing we need is some right wing Christian version of sharia law. Equality means for everyone, not just those who believe as you do.

Oh, and with almost 500 marriage licenses issued, my rights and life still are not affected by what they do...

Leave the judging to God.

Liberty!

reader
20075
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reader 05/14/14 - 08:52 pm
1
0
Very interesting news

I guess we'll see where it leads. Agreed RB, Liberty!

PortGuide6
211
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PortGuide6 05/15/14 - 07:26 am
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kudos to court but misleading story

But it appears that unions between same-sex couples in the Bible Belt state may stop anyway"....

The lack of interference by the SC is seen as an indication that same sex unions are as inevitable as tomorrow's sunrise.

"I guess we will see where this leads"?

We can only assume this will lead to happiness for more fellow citizens. I guess, we might be scared that it will lead to a rush of divorces like the hetero model.

Also disappointed biblical model of polygamy isn't gonna be allowed.

reader
20075
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reader 05/15/14 - 07:46 am
0
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Hopefully

the second law blocking County Clerks from issuing licenses can be added to the current litigation, since it in effect, does the same thing as the amendment ban. If not in the lower court, may at the SC level. I was surprised they refused to block marriage equality in their ruling.

The good thing is, if the SC declares the amendment unconstitutional it falls in every county.

ConwayFan
275
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ConwayFan 05/15/14 - 08:40 am
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Something to Consider for Both Sides....

I used to have a debate in high school with an extremely conservative, religious friend of mine who was advocating bringing back prayer into public schools. I used to tell her, "You're asking the wrong question." As a conservative with HUGE libertarian leanings, I would say, "You should first ask, 'Do we even need public schools at all?' Try to think why the government should be in education whatsoever." It always got her thinking....

The same logic can be applied to this debate. Why is the government even involved in this? Why does the government have to dictate who you can and cannot marry? You don't have to have a license to procreate. You don't have to have a license to own firearms. A license isn't necessary for you to exercise your First Amendment rights. All of these are considered inalienable, just as the right to get married...

If conservatives REALLY believed their message of small, unobtrusive government (as I do), they wouldn't be opposed to gay marriage being regulated by the government at all, because they would be opposed to ALL marriage being regulated by the government. Just my $.02

Igor Rabinowitz
9592
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Igor Rabinowitz 05/15/14 - 10:10 am
2
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That's long been the issue

The government can be in the civil union biz, and churches in the marriage biz in a perfect world.

PortGuide6
211
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PortGuide6 05/15/14 - 11:12 am
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also not on board with education part but for rest of it.....

That is a great point regarding marriages.
Its absurd when people cite religious texts in this argument. Church groups are free to set own standards for weddings within their own group.

Some churches use the same text as a reason to support same-sex unions. Some citizens view the same text as mythology written over thousands of years by dozens of hands

ConwayFan
275
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ConwayFan 05/16/14 - 03:45 pm
1
1
Why?

Why should the federal government be involved in public education?

arkansan
1082
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arkansan 05/16/14 - 06:09 pm
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Why?

Education needs to be standardized. If the federal government is not involved, you may end up with different states teaching different things and beliefs. If it is not standardized we may end up with education like religion everyone will have their own opinion on what the kids should be taught.

Look at the Texas text book fiasco for example. A Board removed Thomas Jefferson from the Texas curriculum's world history standards on Enlightenment thinking, replacing him with religious right icon John Calvin. Teachers in Texas will be required to cover the Christian influences of the nation's Founding Fathers, but not highlight the philosophical rationale for the separation of church and state. The slave trade would be renamed the “Atlantic triangular trade,” American “imperialism” changed to “expansionism,” and all references to “capitalism” have been replaced with “free enterprise.” The battle in Texas curriculum never ends.

The role of the federal government in education ensures equal education opportunities for all children across the country, especially vulnerable groups among the poor, minorities and the disabled.

This will help us be better prepared to compete globally.

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