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Same sex marriage (SSM) in Arkansas

2014-MAY: Part 8:
Federal district court rules in favor of SSM

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This topic is continued from the previous essay.

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wedding rings2014-NOV-25: Federal District Court judge finds state ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional:

On 2014-NOV-20, the Arkansas Supreme Court held hearings in the case before it (Smith v. Wright, CV-14-427) concerning the legalizing of same-sex marriage. The Court is expected to issue its ruling before the end of 2014, because two of the justices end their term at that time.

On the same day, hearings were held on a similar case in federal District Court. Plainiffs in both cases are challenging two state marriage bans by same-sex couples: one is contained in an Arkansas marriage statute; the otheris in a state constitutional amendment passed in 2004 by voters.

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel's (D) favors marriage equality. However, he feels an obligation to defend the state SSM bans. His office argued in the case before the District Court that the U.S. Constitution does not guarantee the fundamental right of two persons marrying if they are of the same gender.

On NOV-25, U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker issued a ruling in favor of marriage equality. She also issued a stay to prevent marriages by same-sex couples pending an expected appeal to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Geographically, this is a realtively large court that has jurisdiction over seven states, including:

  • Wisconsin and Iowa which currently allow same-sex couples to marry, and which recognize marriages by same-sex couples legally solemnized out-of-state.

  • Missouri where some county clerks issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and

  • North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Arkansas all of whom do not currently allow same-sex couples to marry and do not recognize their out-of-state marriages.

In Pulaski County, which is Arkansas' most populous, clerk Larry Crane said that his office is prepared to start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, if a court authorizes their distribution. He said:

"We are quite honestly expecting additional (same-sex) licenses, but whether or not there will be a huge rush, we don’t know."

His office computer is already set up to print forms to handle marriage license applications from such couples.

Danielle Weatherby, a specialist in marriage laws at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville said:

"If the state Supreme Court determines that it is unconstitutional on state constitutional grounds, then the question stops there unless one of the parties appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court."

However, if the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals were to uphold the District Court ruling, then it would override the Arkansas Supreme Court ruling.

Attorney General McDaniel is reviewing the District Court ruling and will consult with Attorney General-elect Leslie Rutledge (R) about the state's future course of action. 1

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More news expected in the future.

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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. Kelly P. Kissel, "Arkansas clerk ready to resume issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples," LGBTQNation, 2014-NOV-26, at: http://www.lgbtqnation.com/
  2. Andrew DeMillo, "Federal judge strikes down Arkansas gay marriage ban, ruling stayed," LGBTQNation, 2014-NOV-25, at: http://www.lgbtqnation.com/

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Copyright © 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2014-NOV-27
Latest update: 2014-NOV-27
Author: B.A. Robinson

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