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Marriage Equality

Suit Demands Recognition for 600 Arkansas Marriages

Suit Demands Recognition for 600 Arkansas Marriages

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A private attorney has filed a lawsuit seeking state recognition for the estimated 600 same-sex couples who were legally wed during Arkansas's brief equality window last May.

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Two same-sex couples who wed during a week-long window when such marriages were legal in Arkansas last May have filed a lawsuit in state court seeking recognition of an estimated 600 same-sex marriages performed during the state's equality window, reports the Washington Blade.

The lawsuit was filed Friday by a private attorney on behalf of Angelia Frazier-Henson and Katherine Henson, and Markett Humphries and Dianna Cristy -- both couples who married on the first day they were legally able to do so in Arkansas.

"Marriage is a fundamental right," the 15-page complaint filed in the Circuit Court of Pulaski County reads in part. "Marital status is a far-reaching legal acknowledgment of the intimate relationship between two people, a relationship worthy of dignity in the community equal with all other marriages. Defendants, as state officials, refuse to treat Plaintiffs as they treat all other legally married couples."

According to current Arkansas law, same-sex couples who were legally married in the state must declare that they are single on their state tax returns, which the lawsuit claims is a "class C felony" of "perjury." That technical distinction is particularly important to Humphries, who is a law enforcement officer and could lose her job for committing perjury, the Blade notes.

RELATED: Everything You Need to Know About Marriage Equality in Arkansas

The Blade estimates that roughly 600 same-sex couples married in Arkansas between May 9, when Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza struck down the state's marriage ban, and May 16, when the Arkansas Supreme Court placed a stay on Piazza's ruling.

Plaintiffs who filed similar suits in other states that had brief equality windows have ultimately been successful -- winning the recognition of more than 1,300 same-sex marriages performed in Utah in late 2013 and an estimated 300 marriages performed in Michigan last year.

While other lawsuits seeking recognition of same-sex marriages performed during equality windows have been backed by major organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union, the Arkansas suit was filed by private attorney Cheryl Maples, who is based in Searcy, Ark. "Since nobody has stepped forward to do anything to alleviate the uncertainty and denial of rights and benefits suffered by these particular couples, I decided to do it," Maples told the Blade. Maples was the attorney who filed the initial suit in state court that resulted in Judge Piazza's May ruling.

"It is my position that these marriages are legal regardless of the outcome of any other court decision," Maples added, referring to the ongoing litigation in state and federal court, where Arkansas's marriage ban has been repeatedly struck down, and the pending marriage equality cases at the U.S. Supreme Court. "I want the [Pulaski County] court to 'declare' that."

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Sunnivie Brydum

Sunnivie is the managing editor of The Advocate, and an award-winning journalist whose passion is covering the politics of equality and elevating the unheard stories of our community. Originally from Colorado, she and her spouse now live in Los Angeles, along with their three fur-children: dogs Luna and Cassie Doodle, and "Meow Button" Tilly.
Sunnivie is the managing editor of The Advocate, and an award-winning journalist whose passion is covering the politics of equality and elevating the unheard stories of our community. Originally from Colorado, she and her spouse now live in Los Angeles, along with their three fur-children: dogs Luna and Cassie Doodle, and "Meow Button" Tilly.