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Same sex marriage (SSM) in Arkansas

2014-MAY: Part 6:
Still more reactions to Judge Piazza's
ruling on marriage equality. State
Supreme Court considers stay.

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This topic is continued from the previous essay.

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wedding ringsStill more reactions to same-sex marriages in Arkansas:

  • The Family Research Council is a conservative Christian para-church organization, which has been designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an anti-gay hate group. 1 On MAR-12, President Tony Perkins wrote an article whose title cleverly links an "Ark" (as in the Ark of the Covenant and Noah's Ark) with the abbreviation of "Arkansas." The title is "Raiders of the Lost Ark." He wrote:

    "Arkansas may be 'the Natural State' -- but not on marriage, if one judge gets his way. Late Friday, the South's most reliably pro-marriage state was rocked by the news that a local judge wadded up the will of 75% of voters and threw it on the progressive trash heap, where liberals hope to bury natural marriage. Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza joined the marriage circus with a ridiculous ruling that struck down Arkansas's Amendment 83, officially expanding this country's lawlessness to one of the most socially conservative states in the union.

    [Judge Piazza wrote:] 'Although marriage is not expressly identified as a fundamental right in the Constitution, the United States Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized it as such. This is an unconstitutional attempt to narrow the definition of equality. The exclusion of a minority for no rational reason is a dangerous precedent.'

    Like judges in Utah, Virginia, Oklahoma, Texas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, and others, Piazza couldn't resist elevating his own political agenda above the democratic process -- thumbing his nose at local officials in the process." 2

The term "natural marriage" is currently used by many religious and social conservative to refer to the marriage of one woman to one man. This term implies that same-sex marriages involving to women or two men, are "unnatural."

  • Human Rights Campaign (HRC): This is the largest national group promoting LGBT equality. President Chad Griffin, who is an Arkansas native, was apparently referring to the fact that Arkansas is the first of the formerly Confederate states to attain marriage equality, when he said:

    "This victory is an essential step on the journey toward full equality for all." 3

One America icon Earlier, the HRC had introduced their Project One America: which they describe as:

"A comprehensive campaign to dramatically expand LGBT equality in the South through permanent campaigns in Alabama, Mississippi and Arkansas.

Project One America is the very first campaign of its kind to work exclusively on LGBT equality in Arkansas—where there are no non-discrimination protections for LGBT people at the state or local level in employment, housing or public accommodations, and where the state’s constitution expressly prohibits marriage equality." 4

On MAY-12, Griffin attended a community gathering and reception at the Arkansas Arts Center as part of the kick-off tour for Project One America. 5

  • The National Organization for Marriage's (NOM) sole goal is to prevent same-sex couples from marrying anywhere in the U.S. NOM's president, Brian Brown, posted the following message on NOMs web site:

    "... Late last Friday, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza issued an outrageous ruling invalidating the Arkansas marriage amendment that defines marriage as one man, one woman and substituted his personal opinions for those of the people of Arkansas and their elected officials.

    As former Governor Mike Huckabee has said, Piazza apparently sees himself as some sort of "super-legislator" who can decide important matters by judicial decree. We say it's time to hold Judge Piazza accountable — by impeaching him. ..."

    We cannot allow a rogue judge to take the law into his own hands and decide that marriage — an institution designed by God that has served society well since long before Arkansas was a state — should suddenly be reinvented. The people of Arkansas are perfectly able to decide this issue for themselves, and they did so a decade ago when over 75 percent of voters put the definition of marriage into the state constitution. If someone thinks that Arkansans want same-sex 'marriage' then let them put the issue on the ballot for the people to decide. ..." 6

    Like so many other religious and social conservatives, Brown is promoting the concept that the U.S. is not a constitutional democracy. That is, that the U.S. Constitution is not the ultimate authority in the land. Rather, authority is vested directly in the will of the people. If the people via a popular vote were to have the ultimate authority, this would often lead to the "tyranny of the majority" in which people could easily pass laws that disadvantage and hurt minorities simply because they are disliked. That was a main concern for the founders of the United States.

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2014-MAY-15: Some county clerks file motion with Arkansas Supreme Court:

White County Clerk Cheryl Evans, Lonoke County Clerk William “Larry” Clarke, Conway County Clerk Debbie Hartman, and Washington County Clerk Becky Lewallen filed a motion with the Arkansas Supreme Court supporting the state's request for a stay to prevent further marriages by same-sex couples. They raised some interesting questions:

  • In the marriage act, uncles are forbidden to marry their nieces and aunts are forbidden tomarry their nephews. This is presumably based on the fact that opposite-sex couples who procreate and are are too closely genetically related run a much higher incidence of genetic defects in their children. But some people feel that marriage by close relatives also destabilizes the family structure. The clerks ask whether this law also prohibits uncles from marrying their nephews, and aunts from marrying their nieces?

  • The minimum age for marrying in state law is 17 for males and 16 for females. The clerks ask if this applies to same-sex couples as well.

  • The law provides for a pregnant female who is below the age of 16 to marry on the assumption that the person she marries is the father. Would this provision also apply to an under-age pregnant female marrying another woman?

  • Arkansas is one of the very few states whose marriage state law provides for "covenant marriages." These are marriages that are more difficult to enter into and more difficult to divorce from. The law specifies that such marriages can be entered into "... by one (1) male and one (1) female..." It is unclear whether same-sex couples can now enter into this type of marriage. 7

The motion filed by the clerks is online, along with the state's emergency stay request and the plaintiffs filing opposing the stay requests. 7

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2014-MAY-14 to 16: The Arkansas Supreme Court considers stay request. Legislature fails to act:

Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel filed a motion with the Arkansas Supreme Court. He requested that the court invoke a stay of Judge Chris Piazza's ruling that initiated marriage equality in the state. The Court responded to the motion by asking the plaintiffs in the case to submit their comments by the afternoon of MAY-13. Most people expected the window of opportunity for same-sex couples to marry would continue until at least that time.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs responded, in part:

"The very purpose of marriage, in large part, is to provide security in the face of the certainty of death, the strong likelihood of eventual incapacity, and the always-present possibility of debilitating accidents or illnesses. ... Same-sex couples who wish to marry are subjected to irreparable harm every day that they are denied their right and forced to live without the protection and security that marriage provides." 8

Republicans at the state Legislature launched a resolution that called on the Supreme Court to uphold the ban on same-sex marriages and consider marriage licenses recently issued to such couples invalid. Democrats in the Legislature blocked the resolution at the committee level. 9

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This topic is continued in the following essay.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. David Demirbilek, "Southern Poverty Law Center repeats 'hate group' claim about Family Research Council," Daily Caller, 2012-SEP-13, at:
  2. Tony Perkins, "Raiders of a Lost Ark.," Family Research Council, 2014-MAY-12, at:
  3. "Arkansas judge strikes down gay marriage ban," Townhall, 2014-MAY-09, at:
  4. "HRC Local: Arkansas," Human Rights Campaign, 2014-MAY-12, at:
  5. "HRC hosts special event in Little Rock, Arkansas, Human Rights Campaign, 2014-MAY-12, at:
  6. Brown, "Impeach Arkansas Judge Who Betrayed Marriage!," National Organization for Marriage, 2014-MAY-14, at:
  7. Chris Geidner, "Arkansas County Officials: 'Can An Uncle Marry A Nephew'?" BuzzFeed Politics, 2014-MAY-16, at:
  8. Paresh Dave, "Arkansas Supreme Court halts same-sex marriages, Los Angeles Times, 2014-MAY-16, at:
  9. "Arkansas: Same-Sex Marriages Are Halted," New York Times, 2014-MAY-16, at:

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Copyright © 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2014-MAY-13
Latest update: 2014-MAY-20
Author: B.A. Robinson

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