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Federal judge recuses from Ark. gay marriage challenge

Friday, July 19, 2013
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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A federal judge is recusing from a case challenging Arkansas’ ban on gay marriage, citing friendships with supporters of the amendment that voters approved banning same-sex unions.

U.S. District Judge Leon Holmes on Thursday ordered that the lawsuit challenging the ban be assigned to another judge.

U.S. District Judge Leon Holmes

Holmes cited personal and professional relationships with leaders who drafted and campaigned for the ban that was approved by voters in 2004. Holmes wrote that the relationships developed in 1980s working on issues similar, but not identical, to the gay marriage ban.

Holmes wrote the professional relationships ceased when he became a federal judge, but the personal ones have continued.

Three gay couples filed the lawsuit on Monday, which seeks an injunction to block enforcement of the Arkansas ban, claiming the measure violates the rights to equal protection and due process.

The 2004 constitutional ban was approved by about 75 percent of Arkansas voters.

The lawsuit names Gov. Mike Beebe and Attorney General Dustin McDaniel as defendants, along with Pulaski County Circuit Clerk Larry Crane. A similar suit was filed earlier this month in state court by 11 gay couples.

A group is also working to get a measure on the 2014 ballot to legalize same-sex marriage. McDaniel’s office rejected proposed wording for the ballot proposal on Friday, though the group can rework the proposal’s language. Another group is seeking to place an item on the 2016 ballot.

The case was reassigned to Judge Kristine Baker.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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