Lawyers: Don’t Suspend Gay Marriage Ruling

Tuesday May 13, 2014

Lawyers for gay couples asked the state's highest court Tuesday to let same-sex weddings continue amid a fight over Arkansas' gay marriage ban, while more than half the counties that had granted licenses to same-sex couples changed course.

A Pulaski County judge had set aside Arkansas' voter-approved ban late Friday, setting off a run on courthouses. Attorney General Dustin McDaniel asked the state Supreme Court for a stay Monday and lawyers for couples who challenged the ban replied Tuesday.

"The public has no interest in enforcing unconstitutional laws or in relegating same-sex couples and their families to a perpetual state of financial and legal vulnerability," the attorneys argued in the brief.

The Supreme Court had asked that paperwork be completed by noon Tuesday but has not indicated when it will rule. Justices typically issue opinions on Thursdays but stray from their regular schedule on matters they deem urgent.

Meanwhile, a day after issuing marriage licenses to gay couples, clerks in Marion and Saline counties said they would wait for guidance from the state Supreme Court. Carroll County made the same decision Monday after granting 15 licenses Saturday.

Clerks in Pulaski County, which contains the capital, Little Rock, and Washington County, home to Fayetteville and the University of Arkansas, issued additional licenses to gay couples Tuesday, pushing the total to more than 300 since Friday's ruling.

"I took an oath to support the constitution of the U.S. and the state of Arkansas and to essentially obey the law," Pulaski County Clerk Larry Crane said. "If the Supreme Court stays the order, I will abide by the Supreme Court. I will obey the law."

Washington County kept granting licenses despite being among four counties seeking a stay separate from McDaniel's request.

McDaniel and four counties named in the lawsuit that challenged the gay marriage ban complained in separate filings to the state Supreme Court that Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza's decision has led to confusion among the state's 75 counties. The county clerks say they feel threatened under a separate part of Arkansas law that warns against the "wrongful issuance of a marriage license."

McDaniel has said he supports same-sex marriage personally, but will defend Arkansas' ban in court.

Gov. Mike Beebe, who has said he opposes same-sex marriage, told reporters he thinks it'll ultimately be up to the Supreme Court to decide whether the marriages conducted are valid.

"I quit practicing law a number of years ago, so I think the Supreme Court will have to answer that question," said Beebe, a Democrat and former attorney general.

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