A Look at Gay Marriage Laws in Arkansas

Thursday May 15, 2014
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In declining to put on hold a judge’s ruling that overturned Arkansas’ constitutional gay marriage ban, the state Supreme Court on Wednesday created some confusion because it offered no direction to county clerks who had pointed to another part of state law that also bans gay marriage. The court simply noted that a lower court judge had not addressed it in his ruling last week.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza had specifically struck down Arkansas’ constitutional amendment 83 of 2004 as well as Act 144 of 1997, which says that marriage is "only between a man and a woman." However, his ruling did not address another section of the law that directs how county clerks issue marriage licenses and specifies that they’re not to be issued to same-sex couples. Below is the text of the amendment and the state laws:

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Constitutional Amendment 83 of 2004

1. Marriage.

Marriage consists only of the union of one man and one woman.

2. Marital status.

Legal status for unmarried persons which is identical or substantially similar to marital status shall not be valid or recognized in Arkansas, except that the legislature may recognize a common law marriage from another state between a man and a woman.

3. Capacity, rights, obligations, privileges, and immunities.

The legislature has the power to determine the capacity of persons to marry, subject to this amendment, and the legal rights, obligations, privileges, and immunities of marriage.

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Act 144 of 1997 (codified at Arkansas Code annotated 9-11-109)

Validity of same-sex marriages.

Marriage shall be only between a man and a woman. A marriage between persons of the same sex is void.

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Arkansas Code annotated 9-11-208.

License not issued to persons of the same sex.

(a) (1) (A) It is the public policy of the State of Arkansas to recognize the marital union only of man and woman.

(B) A license shall not be issued to a person to marry another person of the same sex, and no same-sex marriage shall be recognized as entitled to the benefits of marriage.

(2) Marriages between persons of the same sex are prohibited in this state. Any marriage entered into by a person of the same sex, when a marriage license is issued by another state or by a foreign jurisdiction, shall be void in Arkansas, and any contractual or other rights granted by virtue of that license, including its termination, shall be unenforceable in the Arkansas courts.

(3) However, nothing in this section shall prevent an employer from extending benefits to a person who is a domestic partner of an employee.

(b) A license shall not be issued to a person to marry unless and until the female shall attain the age of sixteen (16) years and the male the age of seventeen (17) years and then only by written consent y a parent or guardian until the male shall have attained the age of eighteen (18) years and the female the age of eighteen (18) years.

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Arkansas Code annotated 9-11-204.

Issuance of license unlawfully - Penalty.

If any county clerk in this state shall issue any license contrary to the provisions of this act, or to any persons who are declared by law as not entitled to the license, he or she shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction shall be fined in any sum not less than one hundred dollars ($100) nor more than five hundred dollars ($500).


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