Piazza Denies Stay, Same-Sex Marriage Licenses Resume in Pulaski County

LITTLE ROCK, AR – Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Chris Piazza has denied a stay (see attached) of his May 9 order lifting the ban on same sex marriage in Arkansas.

Judge Piazza’s new order essentially declares that all state laws banning same-sex marriage are unconstitutional.

Also, the Pulaski County Clerk’s Office has resumed the issuing of same-sex marriage licenses this afternoon after a brief stoppage this morning.

A check of the six other counties listed in the original lawsuit finds that none of them have started or resumed issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, including: Conway, Faulkner, Lonoke, Saline, Washington and White.

More details in this news release from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC):
WASHINGTON, DC – Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza today clarified his ruling striking down Arkansas’ constitutional ban on marriage equality after the state Supreme Court sent it back to him for clarification. Judge Piazza also once again rejected the state’s request to stay his ruling, saying there’s no evidence the state would be harmed by allowing same-sex couples to continue marrying.  Marriages between same-sex couples can resume in Arkansas effective immediately. 

“No procedural obstacle should stand between committed and loving gay and lesbian couples in Arkansas and their constitutional right to marry,” said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin. “I’m confident that as this case moves forward, the Arkansas Supreme Court will keep faith with the spirit of Judge Piazza’s ruling and the fair-minded values that my home state holds dear.”

Today in denying the state’s request for a stay, Judge Piazza wrote, “There is no evidence that Defendants, the State or its citizens were harmed by the entry of the Court’s original order or that they will be harmed by the clarifications contained within the Final Order and Rule 54(b) certification. However, the same cannot be said of the Plaintiffs and other same-sex couples who have not been afforded the same measure of human dignity, respect and recognition by this state as their similarly situated, opposite-sex counterparts. A stay would operate to further damage Arkansas families and deprive them of equal access to the rights associated with marriage status in this state.”

The case, Wright v. Arkansas, challenges a statute passed in 1997 and a constitutional amendment to the Arkansas Constitution, approved by voters in 2004. Both exclude same-sex couples from marriage and forbid the state from recognizing same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

From Faulkner County Attorney David Hogue:
In response to questions I have already received regarding Judge Piazza’s ruling of this date, I offer the following: 

The initial Complaint in this case listed the State of Arkansas and Governor Beebe as Defendants. The first and second Amended Complaints did as well.  

In September, there was a change in plaintiff’s counsel, and a Third Amended Complaint was filed on September 30. It left out the State and Gov. Beebe.  The caption of the case was thus changed, and the State was no longer a party. 

Even the court issued Orders acknowledging that the State was no longer a party. (Scheduling Order of 1-27 and Order Dismissing Reynolds of 4-1). I would again point out that Ms. Reynolds was dismissed as a party, as mentioned.  

When the Court issued final orders, the caption seems to have returned to that of the initial pleadings, even though the Plaintiffs’ pleadings still did not list the State as an entity.  

At the end of the case, neither the State nor Faulkner County was a party, and so neither Faulkner County nor any other non-party counties are subject to this Order. Faulkner County will abide by current state law, which includes Amendment 83. 

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