BREAKING: Ark. Supreme Court Denies Stay, But Halts Marriage Equality
The Arkansas Supreme Court this evening rejected the state's request to place a judge's ruling establishing marriage equality on hold, but said that ruling left intact another statute that deems only male-female couples eligible for marriage licenses, essentially putting an end to marriage equality in the state for the moment.
The Supreme Court contends that Circuit Court judge Chris Piazza's Friday ruling, which struck down statutory and constitutional prohibitions on same-sex marriage, was incomplete, as it did not render void all of the state's laws referring to marriage as solely the union of one man and one woman, according to the Arkansas Times.
Because of this, the court returned the question of the legality of same-sex marriage to Piazza's court, where equality advocates pledged to fight for an amended ruling that establishes marriage equality throughout the state with certainty.
"We'll fix that tomorrow and be back here again," Jack Wagoner, attorney for the 11 same-sex-couples who filed suit to overturn the state's bans, told the Times. "How can order find something unconstitutional but not affect a statute that would require the clerks to do something unconstitutional?"
Several county clerks had pointed to the still-existent statute, Ark. Code Ann. 9-11-208(b), which decrees that marriage licenses may not be issued to couples of the same sex, when their offices declined to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples who requesting them this week. While clerks in five counties initially granted marriage licenses to same-sex couples, as of Wednesday only Washington and Pulaski counties were still issuing licenses.
The Times notes that the Supreme Court's order provides clear legal protection to the 73 counties that have refused to issue licenses to same-sex couples in the wake of Piazza's ruling, but notes that "the bottom line is that Judge Piazza's judgment remains in place."
Because the Supreme Court did not consider the case formally complete in Piazza's court, it dismissed the state's request for a stay, along with the motion to appeal Piazza's ruling, as premature.