News (USA)

Latest Arkansas ruling throws new wrinkle in state’s same-sex marriage debate

Supporters of same-sex marriage and others gather in the rotunda of the Pulaski County Courthouse in Little Rock, Ark., Monday, May 12, 2014. Monday was the first day marriage licenses were issued to same-sex couples in the county.
Supporters of same-sex marriage and others gather in the rotunda of the Pulaski County Courthouse in Little Rock, Ark., Monday, May 12, 2014, the first day marriage licenses were issued to same-sex couples in the county. Danny Johnston, AP

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And his ruling is unlikely to create the same dramatic rush of couples to file new tax forms, sign up for each other’s state insurance policies or even divorce, all of which are allowed by the state recognizing the marriages.

The ruling offers gay couples at least an incremental victory after seeing the fight over same-sex marriage stall before the state Supreme Court months after the case was argued before justices.

The reason for the delay – a dispute over which justices should hear the case – has been resolved and justices have rejected an effort for a new round of oral arguments. But justices have given no indication when they’ll rule.

They could get beaten to the punch by the U.S. Supreme Court, which is expected to rule this month on whether gay marriage should be legal nationwide.

Griffen’s case touches on some of the same issues the state will face if either court strikes down gay marriage bans on matters ranging from birth certificates to custody disputes.

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Whether the state will have to address those questions now remains to be seen. Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, a Republican who has vowed to defend the state’s gay marriage ban, has stopped short of saying whether she’ll seek a stay of Griffen’s order.

But the attorney for the two couples who sued the state over the licenses said the ruling at least provides some certainty after more than a year of living in limbo.

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

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