The Arkansas Supreme Court is being asked to review its same sex marriage decision to overturn a 2004 constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Attorney General Dustin McDaniel announced his intent to appeal to the high court.
However, prior to McDaniel’s announcement, 15 licenses were issued for same-sex couples in northwest Arkansas’ Carroll County, heralding the arrival of gay marriage in the Bible Belt.
“Thank God,” Jennifer Rambo said after Carroll County Deputy Clerk Jane Osborn issued a marriage license to her and Kristin Seaton, a former volleyball player at the University of Arkansas. The Fort Smith couple had traveled overnight to ensure they’d be first in line, and wed moments later on a sidewalk near the courthouse.
Carroll County was believed to be the only county that issued marriage licenses Saturday. Several courthouses were open for early primary-election voting but staffers said they were not prepared to issue marriage licenses.
Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza paved the way for the marriages Friday with a ruling that removed a 10-year-old barrier, saying a constitutional amendment overwhelmingly passed by voters in 2004 banning gay marriage was “an unconstitutional attempt to narrow the definition of equality.” Piazza’s ruling also overturned a 1997 state law banning gay marriage.
McDaniel has asked Piazza to suspend his ruling, but also formally said late Saturday he wants the state Supreme Court to take up the matter. That appeal has not yet been filed.
But because Piazza didn’t issue a stay, Arkansas’ 75 county clerks were left to decide for themselves whether to grant marriage licenses. That caused confusion among county clerks, Association of Arkansas Counties executive director Chris Villines said.
“The court didn’t give us any time to get the kinks worked out,” he said.
It isn’t clear how many counties would issue same-sex marriage licenses Monday, Villines said Saturday after a conference call with clerks from around the state.
At least one clerk announced she won’t issue licenses to same-sex couples. The office of Faulkner County Clerk Melinda Reynolds issued a statement Sunday night saying she believes that only the State Supreme Court can strike down a state law, not a Circuit Court judge. Until then, Reynolds said she will not issue the licenses.