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Judge rejects motion to dismiss challenge to Ark. same-sex marriage ban

Friday, December 20, 2013
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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A lawsuit challenging Arkansas’ ban on gay marriage is moving closer to a trial.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza on Thursday rejected a motion by government lawyers to dismiss a lawsuit seeking to topple the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, reported the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

ArkansasThe judge also refused the plaintiffs’ motion seeking to bar the state from continuing to apply the prohibition to the nine same-sex couples who are part of the 43-member plaintiffs’ group. Piazza’s brief ruling did not state a reason.

The plaintiffs — 21 same-sex couples and a woman who wants to dissolve her New York marriage to another woman — argue that a constitutional amendment that Arkansas voters passed in 2004 and related statutes violate both state and federal constitutions. They say the laws violate equal-protection guarantees and are deliberately demeaning and degrading to them and their children.

The lawsuit targets the Arkansas Department of Health, which manages the state’s marriage records, and the Department of Finance and Administration, which oversees income-tax collection, along with the county clerks in seven counties — Conway, Faulkner, Lonoke, Pulaski, Saline, Washington and White — where plaintiffs have been refused marriage licenses.

A trial hasn’t been scheduled yet.

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Attorney Jack Wagoner, who represents the plaintiffs along with attorney Cheryl Maples, said he would like the case to be resolved at the circuit-court level within three months.

But the case likely won’t end there. The judge has said he expects an appeal, meaning the marriage-ban question will ultimately be decided by the Arkansas Supreme Court.

A spokesman for Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, whose office is representing the state, commended the judge for moving quickly, acting within a week to the day after a three-hour hearing on the dismissal and injunction questions.

“We appreciate the court ruling in such a timely fashion,” spokesman Aaron Sadler said.

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