LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Couples challenging Arkansas‘ gay marriage ban asked the state’s highest court on Tuesday to lift its stay in their lawsuit and allow clerks to resume issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Attorneys for the couples called on justices to set aside their stay of Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza’s May ruling striking down a 2004 constitutional amendment and earlier state law defining marriage as between a man and a woman.
More than 500 couples were issued marriage licenses over a week before justices suspended the ruling while they considered the state’s appeal.
The couples challenging the ban argued that gay and lesbian couples are suffering “dignitary, legal, financial and practical harms” because of the stay.
“This court should not allow any unnecessary continuation of the deprivation of plaintiffs’ constitutional rights,” the couples said in Tuesday’s filing.
Judd Deere, a spokesman for Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, said the state would file a response but strongly objected to lifting Piazza’s ruling.
Justices heard arguments in November over the ban. Rutledge, a Republican who was elected in November, has asked the court for a new hearing because two new justices were sworn in to the court in January.
In a separate filing, the couples argued for allowing Special Justice McCorkindale to continue hearing the case. Former Gov. Mike Beebe last year appointed McCorkindale to serve on the case after former Justice Cliff Hoofman recused himself. Hoofman has since been replaced on the court by Justice Rhonda Wood.
The state case is one of two fronts where same-sex marriage supporters are fighting Arkansas’ ban. U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker struck down the ban in November in a separate case but suspended her decision as the state appeals her ruling.
Judges across the country have ruled against bans similar to Arkansas’ since the U.S. Supreme Court struck part of a federal anti-gay marriage law in June 2013, and gay marriage is legal in more than half of the U.S.
The U.S. Supreme Court last month announced it would hear arguments on whether same-sex couples have the right to marry in every state. The cases will be argued in April, and a decision is expected by late June.
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