Arkansas Couples Rush to Marry, Fearing Court Stay
Same-sex couples lined up outside county clerks' offices in Arkansas's Pulaski and Washington counties today, hoping to take advantage of the brief marriage equality window before a judge's Friday ruling is likely put on hold.
The Pulaski County Courthouse in Little Rock opened at 8 a.m. Central time today and began issuing marriage licenses to some of the dozens of same-sex couples who gathered there before dawn, reports the Arkansas Times. Pulaski County clerk Larry Crane announced Friday that he would begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples when his office opened for business Monday, intending to honor a state court ruling from Judge Chris Piazza that struck down Arkansas' statutory and constitutional bans on same-sex marriage Friday.
Arkansas attorney general Dustin McDaniel has filed a request with both Piazza and the state's Supreme Court to stay that ruling, but as of 12 Noon, neither court had granted that stay. McDaniel is a Democrat who recently told press he personally supports marriage equality, but also said his job requires him to defend the laws of the state, and therefore he plans to appeal Piazza's ruling.
Fifteen same-sex couples received marriage licenses at the Carroll County courthouse in Eureka Springs when it opened for regularly scheduled business hours Saturday, although there was an initial delay when some employees of the county clerk's office were unsure how to proceed. After briefly shutting down the office, the employees decided to grant marriage licenses to the same-sex couples who had gathered to take advantage of their newly recognized rights.
According to the Times, the county clerk's office in Eureka Springs issued roughly a dozen marriage licenses to same-sex couples Monday morning, before Carroll County clerk Jamie Correia ordered her staff to stop.
By doing so, Carroll County adopted the strategy devised by the Association of Arkansas Counties Saturday afternoon, which argued that counties are not required to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples if they do not have the proper software in place to recognize spouses of the same gender. Officials in White and Conway counties announced they would not be issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, noting that those counties were not plaintiffs in the local lawsuit that struck down the state's marriage ban and therefore are not clear on whether they are bound by a state court ruling from outside their district. Other clerks have argued that Piazza's ruling did not address several other state statutes that refer to marriage as the union of a man and a woman, leaving legal uncertainty about whether same-sex marriages are actually permitted statewide, according to the Times' latest update.
For the moment, however, marriage equality has arrived in select portions of Arkansas, and until an emergency stay is granted, same-sex couples will continue to be granted marriage licenses in Pulaski, Marion, Washington, and Saline counties.
See photos of the happy newlyweds celebrating in Little Rock below, courtesy of freelance photographer Grav Weldon. See his Instagram page for more.