• Syndicate content
  • Comment

Resolution signals new rift with court

Posted: May 17, 2014 - 2:46pm
State Sen Jason Rapert, R-Conway, is interviewed after a meeting of the Legislative Council at the state Capitol in Little Rock, Ark., Friday, May 16, 2014. A non-binding resolution by Rapert objecting to a judge's decision striking down a ban on same-sex marriage failed before the Council on a procedural vote Friday. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)  AP
AP
State Sen Jason Rapert, R-Conway, is interviewed after a meeting of the Legislative Council at the state Capitol in Little Rock, Ark., Friday, May 16, 2014. A non-binding resolution by Rapert objecting to a judge's decision striking down a ban on same-sex marriage failed before the Council on a procedural vote Friday. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)

LITTLE ROCK — A judge’s decision to strike down all Arkansas laws preventing gay couples from marrying starts a new chapter in the already contentious relationship between the state’s Legislature and its courts.

An effort by some legislators to urge the state Supreme Court to overturn Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza’s ruling against the state’s gay marriage ban was the opening salvo in a months-long political fight that will be waged alongside the legal one over whether same-sex couples should be allowed to marry. Part of that fight includes a handful of lawmakers, and the state’s former governor, floating the idea of pushing for the judge’s removal over the ruling.

Hours before the state Supreme Court temporarily put Piazza’s decision on hold Friday, a resolution urging the court to keep gay marriage illegal and invalidate licenses already issued to hundreds of same-sex couples faltered before a legislative panel. The non-binding proposal failed on a procedural move before the Arkansas Legislative Council, falling shy of the votes needed to be considered by the panel.

“Short of an impeachment proceeding, this is the first thing the legislature can do to show our disapproval,” said Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Conway, who introduced the resolution.

The proposal didn’t specifically mention impeachment, an idea floated by a handful of Republican lawmakers and endorsed by former Gov. Mike Huckabee. In a post on his political action committee website, the Republican ex-governor said Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe should call a special session to impeach Piazza.

Huckabee and other critics of Piazza have said his ruling undermined the will of voters, who approved by a 3-1 margin the constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman. Piazza’s final order also struck down any other state laws banning couples from marrying.

“The dangerous precedent of elected officials allowing one single member of the judicial branch to become Lord God of law is dangerous and unconstitutional,” Huckabee wrote in his post last week.

Huckabee was governor when the ban passed and supported its passage. He said in a call-in radio show in March 2004 that gay marriages constituted “lawlessness.”

The threat to impeach Piazza over his ruling is another echo of the 1957 school desegregation crisis that has already cast a heavy shadow over Arkansas’ gay marriage fight. Then-Gov. Orval Faubus called on Congress to impeach the judge who ordered the integration of Little Rock Central High School.

The closest Rapert’s resolution came to addressing impeachment was language calling for the Legislature to find ways to prevent “judicial activism,” wording that worried even Democrats who said they support the gay marriage ban.

“As a legislator, I don’t like the judiciary interfering in legislative issues. Consequently, I don’t think as a legislator I should try to rule what the judicial system does,” said Rep. David Hillman, D-Almyra. “We’ve got a country ruled by law. We need to let the laws work out.”

Rifts between the Legislature and the courts are nothing new. During the Lake View school funding fight, some lawmakers openly complained about the court rulings and said the court was overstepping its authority. Decisions chipping away parts of the state’s tort reform efforts prompted similar complaints, and even led to a failed effort put on the ballot a proposal that would have given the Legislature power to write court rules for civil cases.

But the focus on Piazza with the resolution and impeachment talk has some Republicans worried such moves would create an even deeper rift between the two branches. Outgoing House Speaker Davy Carter, a Republican, joined with Democrats in blocking the resolution last week.

“Whether or not our state’s constitutional amendment runs afoul of the United States Constitution is a question for our highest court,” Carter said in a statement released after the vote. “Judicial intimidation by the legislative branch is not appropriate in this instance or any other.”

  • Comment
Comments (14) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
lachowsj
4964
Points
lachowsj 05/19/14 - 06:46 am
4
1
An apt comparison

"The threat to impeach Piazza over his ruling is another echo of the 1957 school desegregation crisis that has already cast a heavy shadow over Arkansas’ gay marriage fight. Then-Gov. Orval Faubus called on Congress to impeach the judge who ordered the integration of Little Rock Central High School."

Now all we need is an angry mob screaming at gay couples as they try to enter the courthouse to buy their marriage license. That would forever cement the reputation of Arkansas after having spent half a century trying to repair it.

justask
263
Points
justask 05/22/14 - 11:42 am
0
0
It has already happened

On TV news they not only showed overjoyed couples getting their licenses, but also church groups protesting. I found it rather ironic that a black preacher of a black church was one of the most vehement protesters interviewed.
Now would Jesus do that? Not the nonjudgmental Jesus, who said God is Love, that I was raised to know in church.

reader
18404
Points
reader 05/19/14 - 08:34 am
5
3
Jason Rapert the Orval Faubus of his day

Not surprising. The illegitimate amendment will fall despite the best efforts of Rapert. He is just another road bump in history, and term limited too. He is welcome to live by the 'Christian' laws he chooses but the people of Arkansas are free and not bound by his vision of a theocratic state government.

Jollymusician
223
Points
Jollymusician 05/19/14 - 10:17 am
2
2
10 years....

The amendment has been around for 10 years, plus an extra year prior to being put on the ballot. The citizens of this state had a long time to address the unconstitutional-ness of the amendment. Rulings such as this, makes voters realize that their votes do not count. I think that this case should have went to the state supreme court first instead of a circuit court.

These are my opinions and are in no way an attempt to make others believe them.

mikeng1994
10152
Points
mikeng1994 05/19/14 - 09:19 am
5
4
I'd say he's on the same side

I'd say he's on the same side as 75% of the population.

sevenof400
7002
Points
sevenof400 05/19/14 - 06:04 pm
2
3
Or more....

There was an excellent op ed piece in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette on Sunday about the many problems cause by the judge's ruling. Piazza's rush to make a hasty judgement (whatever his motivations) has caused more issues than it solved and illustrates the problem of judicial activism.

All of us who comment here on the LCD have well established our positions on this issue so the point of this post is NOT to rehash that question. Piazza was wrong to act in the manner he did and should face repercussions for abuse of power.

Igor Rabinowitz
8386
Points
Igor Rabinowitz 05/19/14 - 08:08 pm
2
0
Disagree

Piazza was well in keeping with judicial precedent, and explained his position in making his decision, a matter of public record.

I note it's "judicial activism" when it's something we don't like, and "sound jurisprudence" when we agree.

sevenof400
7002
Points
sevenof400 05/19/14 - 10:23 pm
0
0
Before we go too far with this...

...did you see / read the op ed piece I am referring to?

Igor Rabinowitz
8386
Points
Igor Rabinowitz 05/20/14 - 08:53 am
1
0
No

Although considering the source, little doubt on it's position and verbiage.

fdsjfsdjfsda543543543
2545
Points
fdsjfsdjfsda543543543 05/19/14 - 09:25 pm
2
0
Abuse of power?

Abuse of power? Bull-hockey!!

This is what judges do, they issue rulings. Sometimes laws get declared unconstitutional. I'm sure you'd still like inter-racial marriage to be illegal too. That was ruled unconstitutional in 1967.

This is a civil rights issue, plain and simple. States don't get to pass laws taking away people's civil rights guaranteed by the constitution.

Back to Top