Arkansas governor selects 3 justices to hear same-sex marriage case

Arkansas

Arkansas

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A former Supreme Court justice who helped strike down Arkansas‘ ban on gay foster parents and an ex-legislator who tried to reinstate that prohibition were appointed Tuesday to help decide a case related to the challenge over same-sex marriage.

Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson named former Justice Betty Dickey, Circuit Judge and former state Sen. Shawn Womack and Searcy attorney Brett Watson as special justices to a case that centers on which Supreme Court members can participate in the challenge to Arkansas’ same-sex marriage ban.

The court has said the dispute over whether a newly elected justice or a special justice appointed last year can participate must be resolved before the case can proceed.

Hutchinson said none of the three had approached him about serving on the case.

A Pulaski County judge struck down the state’s gay marriage ban last May, and more than 500 same-sex couples were issued marriage licenses before the Supreme Court suspended his ruling. The state has argued the case should be decided by the current lineup of the court, since two justices who heard oral arguments in November have since been replaced.

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The debate could mean the state does not resolve the issue before the nation’s highest court does.

The U.S. Supreme Court is preparing to hear oral arguments in a case that could decide whether gay marriage is legal nationwide. A ruling from the court is expected by late June.

Chief Justice Jim Hannah and Justice Paul Danielson have recused themselves from the case over who can participate in the same-sex marriage appeal, and have accused the other members of the court of unnecessarily delaying the lawsuit. Justice Rhonda Wood, who joined the court in January, has also recused herself from the case.

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