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Marriage Equality

WATCH: Latest Marriage Wins Aren't as Simple as They Seem

WATCH: Latest Marriage Wins Aren't as Simple as They Seem


Last week saw two victories in Southern states, but there may be bumps in the road before the cases get much further.

Even with last week's Thanksgiving holiday, courts still managed to squeeze in two major victories for marriage equality: federal judges in Arkansas and Mississippi both ruled that marriage bans in those states are unconstitutional.

State officials have already begun the process of appealing those cases, but it won't be a strictly straightforward process.

The Arkansas litigation is complicated by twin lawsuits, one filed in state court and the other in federal court. The state lawsuit, Wright v. Smith, has already seen one major victory: in May of 2014, Judge Chris Piazza ruled against the marriage ban. Hundreds of same-sex couples were able to marry in a brief window between the ruling and the issuance of a stay by the state Supreme Court.

The Arkansas Supreme Court heard oral argument on November 20, and a ruling could come at any time. Meanwhile, the federal case is now headed to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, which will also hear an appeal from Missouri. It's too early to tell whether the cases will be consolidated. Like Arkansas, Missouri also has a marriage case pending before the State Supreme Court.

Having multiple lawsuits in different courts complicates the situation. It's possible that the State Supreme Courts could rule one way, and the Federal Appeals Courts another. Generally, federal law preempts state law, but the timing of the decisions could result in a back-and-forth of marriage being legal and then prohibited.

Meanwhile, things are a bit simpler in neighboring Mississippi, but time is of the essence. A federal judge found the state's ban unconstitutional last week, and the state has already announced its intent to appeal. They parties in that case are likely to move quickly, because the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has already scheduled oral argument for two other marriage cases on January 9, 2014. Those cases originated in Texas and Louisiana.

Get up to speed on the state of marriage equality nationwide below:

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Matt Baume