Arkansas AG Again Seeks Court Stay on Gay Marriage

Wednesday May 14, 2014
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After marrying Allan Cox, 48, left, and Steve Thomas, 61, right, Judge Wendell Griffen, center, signs their marriage license.
After marrying Allan Cox, 48, left, and Steve Thomas, 61, right, Judge Wendell Griffen, center, signs their marriage license.  (Source:AP Photo/Christina Huynh)

The Arkansas attorney general’s office on Wednesday again pressed the state’s highest court to suspend a judge’s decision striking down a gay marriage ban, saying the ruling last week has led to "pervasive" confusion among clerks about whether they can grant licenses to same-sex couples.

Responding to a request filed by lawyers for gay couples seeking the dismissal of his appeal, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel’s office asked the court to suspend Pulaski County Judge Chris Piazza’s ruling striking down a 2004 constitutional amendment approved by voters and a similar 1997 state law. Piazza ruled Friday that the prohibition violates the U.S. and Arkansas constitution.

About 400 marriage licenses have been issued to same-sex couples since Piazza’s ruling. Only Pulaski and Washington, two of the state’s most populous counties, were still issuing licenses to gay couples, and clerks in both locations said they would do so until a Supreme Court order told them otherwise.

"Confusion is pervasive, and this court should exercise its superintending authority over circuit courts to issue a stay," Assistant Attorney General Colin Jorgensen wrote in the brief.

Attorneys for the couples who sought to overturn the ban told the court late Tuesday afternoon that McDaniel’s appeal was premature since a final order had not been issued by Piazza. The AG told the court in Wednesday’s filing that it wouldn’t object to the court dismissing his appeal on those grounds if justices granted a stay.

In the filing, McDaniel’s office also said it agreed with lawyers for four counties who asked for a stay on the grounds that Piazza’s ruling didn’t address a separate law prohibiting clerks from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

"The state agrees that there are a bevy of unanswered questions that have arisen from the circuit court’s order. This confusion and uncertainty supports a stay by this court," the attorney general’s office said.

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