Arkansas same-sex couples ‘stuck in limbo’ sue state for recognition

In this May12, 2014, file photo, couples line up to file paperwork for marriage licenses at the Pulaski County Courthouse in Little Rock, Ark., on May 12, 2014, after the state's largest county began issuing marriage licenses for same-sex couples. Danny Johnston, AP

In this May12, 2014, file photo, couples line up to file paperwork for marriage licenses at the Pulaski County Courthouse in Little Rock, Ark., on May 12, 2014, after the state's largest county began issuing marriage licenses for same-sex couples.Danny Johnston, AP

Couples line up to file paperwork for marriage licenses at the Pulaski County Courthouse in Little Rock, Ark., on May 12, 2014, after the state’s largest county began issuing marriage licenses for same-sex couples.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — An attorney representing same-sex couples in Arkansas says her clients who received marriage licenses are “stuck in limbo” while state and federal courts consider whether gay marriage should be legal in the state.

Cheryl Maples on Friday filed a civil complaint in Pulaski County Circuit Court against Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, Gov. Asa Hutchinson and the director of the state Department of Finance and Administration.

Maples, who is representing two licensed couples in the suit, said her clients have been denied health benefits and aren’t able to jointly file taxes. She wants the state to recognize the unions.

A Pulaski County judge overturned the state’s same-sex marriage ban in May and 541 gay couples obtained licenses before Arkansas Supreme Court justices imposed a stay. Justices are considering a request from the attorney general to hear new oral arguments in the case, but lawyers for gay couples object.

The court, in a ruling last week, gave both sides 30 days to argue their case.

A federal judge has also overturned the ban but has put her order on hold.

Maples argues that her clients are being harmed every day the marriages aren’t recognized. She said the court needs to decide what happens to the people issued licenses between May 10 and May 16.

“The couples that got married during that week in May, none of the laws really applied to them,” Maples said. “Their marriages should be, and I believe are, as legal as any heterosexual marriage.”

The lawsuit states that the same-sex couples have been instructed to file their taxes separately and therefore aren’t eligible for benefits afforded married people. Maples said another client qualifies for state health benefits through her spouse but has been denied and is uninsured.

An attorney general spokesman says Rutledge is “reviewing the complaint and will decide how to move forward in the coming days.”

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