Judge strikes Arkansas bans on gay marriage

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iol pic wld Gay Marriage Arkansas~2 Associated Press Pastor Randy Eddy-MCain performs a wedding ceremony for a same-sex couple who did not wish their names to be used at the Pulaski County Courthouse in Little Rock. Picture: Danny Johnston

Little Rock, Arkansas -

Gay marriages quickly resumed in Arkansas on Thursday after a state judge whose previous order had sown confusion among county clerks expanded his ruling to remove all vestiges of same-sex marriage bans from the state's laws.

The Arkansas Supreme Court had said on Wednesday that a law that kept clerks from issuing marriage licences to same-sex couples remained on the books, despite the ruling last week by Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza that declared gay marriage bans unconstitutional.

Piazza revised his order on Thursday, saying no one in the state was harmed by the 456 marriage licences issued to same-sex couples after his order and until the Supreme Court ruled. He rejected the state's request to put his decision on hold, saying gay couples would be harmed by that action.

“Constitutional violations are routinely recognised as triggering irreparable harm unless they are promptly remedied,” Piazza wrote. The attorney general has again turned to the state Supreme Court for help.

Seventeen other states allow gay marriage. Judges have struck down bans in Idaho, Michigan, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and Virginia.

But in Idaho, plans for same-sex marriages to begin on Friday were put on hold as the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals considered whether the governor and attorney-general should have more time to file an appeal a judge's ruling overturning its state ban.

Arkansas voters had added a gay marriage ban to the state's constitution in 2004, the same year Ohio voters voted to define marriage as between one man and one woman. Gay marriage supporters delivered a petition with thousands of signatures to Ohio's attorney general on Thursday, urging him to drop an appeal of a federal court decision tossing out the state's ban on same-sex marriages.

Lawyers for Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett said on Thursday that the state's 1996 ban should remain in place despite a request by a lesbian couple for recognition of their Massachusetts marriage.

In Arkansas, the clerk in Pulaski County, which includes Little Rock, resumed issuing licenses to gay couples quickly after Piazza's revised ruling, granting 11 of them by the close of business. Washington County, home to Fayetteville and the University of Arkansas, said it would resume issuing licences on Friday.

Four other counties that had been sued by gay couples seeking the right to marry said they would wait to hear from their lawyers or the state Supreme Court before proceeding. Carroll County, which wasn't involved in the lawsuit but issued licences on Saturday and Monday, was also awaiting legal advice.

None of the state's other counties issued marriage licences to gay couples. They aren't covered by Piazza's ruling, said Kenneth Gallant, a law professor at the University of Arkansas.

After the marriages resumed, Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel asked the state Supreme Court for an emergency order stopping the distribution of gay marriage licences, despite his belief that gay couples should have the right to marry.

“The circuit court's orders should be stayed while this court considers the state's appeal, in order to avoid confusion and uncertainty about the effect of the circuit court's orders on Arkansas marriage law,” Assistant Attorney General Colin Jorgensen wrote in the filing.

The state Supreme Court gave lawyers for gay couples until noon on Monday to file a response.

The state Health Department said on Thursday it would no longer alter birth certificates for same-sex couples who wanted to both be listed as parents after the Supreme Court ruling. Spokeswoman Kerry Krell said birth certificate alterations remained on hold while officials reviewed Piazza's latest order.

Arkansas legislators on Friday will discuss a non-binding resolution urging justices to uphold the gay marriage ban. - Sapa-AP



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