News (USA)

Couples file federal lawsuit to overturn Ark. ban on same-sex marriage

Couples file federal lawsuit to overturn Ark. ban on same-sex marriage

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Three gay couples filed a federal lawsuit Monday that seeks to overturn a 2004 Arkansas ban on same-sex marriage.

Two of the couples applied to get married in Pulaski County and were turned down. One couple was legally married in New York but “are treated as legal strangers in their home state of Arkansas,” according to the lawsuit filed by attorney Jack Wagoner III of Little Rock.

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.

Monday’s court action follows last mo nth’s pair of U.S. Supreme Court rulings that struck down the Defense of Marriage Act and opening the door for California to resume same-sex marriages.

The lawsuit asks for an injunction to block enforcement of the Arkansas ban, claiming the measure violates the rights to equal protection and due process.

Becca and Tara Austin, Rita and Pam Jernigan, and Randy and Gary Eddy-McCain said they are being blocked from insurance and other benefits and denied the status accorded other married couples and families, the lawsuit says.

A spokesman for McDaniel’s office declined to go into detail about the merits of the lawsuit.

“We are reviewing the lawsuit and analyzing the propriety of the attorney general as a party. We do not have any additional comment at this time,” McDaniel spokesman Aaron Sadler said in an email.

Wagoner didn’t return a phone message seeking comment.

The Family Council backed the 2004 amendment that was approved by about 75 p ercent of Arkansas voters. The group’s president, Jerry Cox, noted that the law has been in place for nearly a decade.

“It has been on the books for nine years now and I believe if there were any issues with it, then groups like the (American Civil Liberties Union) and others would have filed a lawsuit a long time ago,” Cox said. “Every person in Arkansas ought to be concerned … when someone tries to take out a part of the constitution that they put in there in a fair election.”

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