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Ark. AG: Justices do not need to recuse themselves in same-sex marriage case

Ark. AG: Justices do not need to recuse themselves in same-sex marriage case

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A legislative resolution condemning the judge who struck down Arkansas’ gay marriage ban and proposals to allow judicial recall elections aren’t enough of a reason for state Supreme Court justices to recuse themselves from the gay marriage case, state officials argued in court papers Thursday.

Dustin McDaniel
Dustin McDaniel Danny Johnston, AP

The attorney general’s office asked the Arkansas Supreme Court to deny a recusal motion filed earlier this week by same-sex couples challenging the state’s gay marriage ban. Justices are considering whether to uphold the ban, which was struck down by a Pulaski County judge earlier this year.

The couples argued that a resolution lawmakers approved in June condemning Pulaski County Judge Chris Piazza’s decision and urging justices to uphold the ban amounted to judicial intimidation. The couples asked that any justices who planned to seek re-election to the court not participate in the case.

The AG’s office said justices can decide on their own whether they need to recuse themselves from the case.

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“The status of being a justice who is subject to a future election – something inherent in the Arkansas constitution – cannot by itself form the basis for recusal due to the appearance of impropriety,” Thursday’s filing said.

Piazza’s ruling led to 541 gay couples receiving marriage licenses before the decision suspended by the state Supreme Court.

The state is currently defending the ban on two fronts, with two same-sex couples arguing before a federal judge that it should be overturned as well. The state on Wednesday asked that both cases be put on hold since a case over Utah’s gay marriage ban is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.

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