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Saturday, May 10, 2014

Courts - Same-sex couple is married today in Arkansas after trial court ruling. Reminiscent of N.J.?

Here is a chart showing the organization of Arkansas' courts. There are 121 Circuit Court judges, each elected for a 6-year term, and their opinions may be reviewed by their Court of Appeals and/or Supreme Court.

Yesterday, May 9th, an Arkansas Circuit Court judge found that "the Arkansas constitutional and legislative ban on same-sex marriage through Act 144 of 1997 and Amendment 83 is unconstitutional." Here is a link to the 13-page opinion, Wright v. Arkansas, via the Arkansas Times.

Chris Geidner reports at BuzzFeed in a story updated several times that:

The ruling, posted to the court’s docket at 4:51 p.m. Friday, did not include a stay. As such, if no stay is granted by Monday morning, when clerks’ offices re-open, it is expected that — as happened in Utah and Michigan — same-sex couples will seek to marry at that time.

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, a Democrat who last week said he supports same-sex couples’ marriage rights but would continue defending the state’s ban on such marriages, will appeal the ruling. * * *

[Circuit Judge] Piazza is running unopposed for re-election on May 20 for his judgeship, to which he was first elected in 1990. The circumstances make his ruling different from the federal judges — who have lifetime tenure — to have ruled in favor of marriage equality. * * *

UPDATE at 8:07 PM
The state is seeking an immediate stay of the trial court ruling, as posted by Equality Case Files.

Update: May 10, 11:52 a.m.: The first same-sex marriage license was issued in Eureka Springs, Ark., this morning.

On Twitter, Geidner writes:
The license was issued in Carroll County, Arkansas, which has regular Saturday hours for obtaining marriage licenses.
Politico reported at 1:32 PM today:
EUREKA SPRINGS, Ark. — Two women were married on a sidewalk outside a county courthouse in Arkansas on Saturday, breaking a barrier that state voters put in place with a constitutional amendment 10 years ago.

A day after Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza said the ban was "an unconstitutional attempt to narrow the definition of equality," Kristin Seaton, 27, and Jennifer Rambo, 26, exchanged vows at an impromptu ceremony, officiated by a woman in a rainbow-colored dress.

The couple had spent the night in their Ford Focus after traveling to Eureka Springs from their home at Fort Smith, and was the first of about 10 couples to line up outside of the courthouse before it opened.
"Thank God," Rambo said after Carroll County Deputy Clerk Jane Osborn issued them a license, ending a brief period of uncertainty when a different deputy county clerk said she wasn't authorized to grant one and questioned whether Piazza's order in a courtroom 150 miles away had any bearing in Eureka Springs.

ILB: This is reminiscent of the NJ State Superior judge's same-sex marriage ruling last September. On Oct. 18th the "Supreme Court of New Jersey today refused to stay trial Judge Mary Jacobson's ruling," saying, "among other reasons, the State has not shown a reasonable probability of success on the merits." On Oct. 21st, SCOTUSblog reported: "New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, convinced that the state’s challenge to same-sex marriages would fail in the state supreme court, on Monday had his legal staff withdraw an appeal on the issue."

Events are unlikely to move quite as quickly in Arkansas, but New Jersey is an example where a trial judge's ruling turned out to be the only ruling needed to institute state-wide same-sex marriage.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on May 10, 2014 01:45 PM
Posted to Courts in general