Judge: Arkansas must recognize in-state same-sex marriages

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A judge ordered Arkansas officials on Tuesday to recognize more than 500 same-sex marriages performed in the state last year, a move that will let the couples enjoy a host of benefits such as filing taxes jointly and enrolling together in state health insurance plans.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen validated marriage licenses that were issued to same-sex couples after another judge struck down the state’s gay marriage ban. The state Supreme Court halted the distribution of marriage licenses to gay couples after a week in May 2014 and is considering the appeal over a voter-approved same-sex marriage ban.

“With shameless disrespect for fundamental fairness and equality, (Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration Director Larry Walther) insists on treating the marriages of same-sex couples who received marriage licenses between May 9 and May 15 as ‘void from inception as a matter of law,'” Griffen wrote in his ruling.

A spokesman for Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge did not have an immediate comment on Griffen’s ruling.

Some same-sex couples who married in Arkansas last year sued in February, alleging the state was violating their rights by not recognizing the unions. Griffen’s ruling means the couples can file taxes jointly, appear jointly on a child’s birth certificate, enroll together on state health insurance plans and even file for divorce.

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Cheryl Maples, an attorney for the two couples who sued the state over the licenses, said she was thrilled with the decision.

“They finally got some major progress they’ve been waiting so long for,” Maples said. “They’ve been married over a year now and as of right now they’re really married.”

Griffen was among a number of people who presided over same-sex marriage ceremonies in May 2014.

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