Saturday, May 10, 2014

Same-sex marriage comes to Arkansas

A county judge in Arkansas has ruled that the state's ban on same-sex marriage violates the U.S. Constitution. Judge Christopher Piazza did not issue a stay, so same-sex couples were able to apply for marriage licenses as soon as county clerks opened their doors today.

Joe Jervis reports that the Eureka Springs clerk's office did not open at its usual 9 a.m. time, but did open and marriage licenses have been granted to same-sex couples in Arkansas. Let the weddings commence!

The state has announced that they intend to appeal the case. It started in state court, so it would go to the Arkansas Supreme Court. I suspect that the Court will be issuing a stay pending appeal in the next few days. I don't know (since I'm not a lawyer) if Arkansas can request a stay from the federal Supreme Court if they don't get one from their own court.

I think this case, like the case in Utah, will be stayed. I'm just not sure by whom. We keep wobbling on which state will be the eighteenth state to permit same-sex couples to marry. That role has been filled before and it's likely to get another state in that position before we move on to the nineteenth state.
The current tally is a follows:

There are only seven states that neither permit same-sex marriage nor have a case that an existing ban is unconstitutional. (Alaska, Kansas, Mississipi, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota). 

Counting only the states where all litigation has effectively ceased (someone could file a lawsuit challenging same-sex marriage in Massachusetts tomorrow; it just wouldn't have any chance of success), there are seventeen states where same-sex couples have a continuing right to get marriage licenses. After all, it wasn't long ago that Utah was the eighteenth state with marriage equality, but same-sex couples can't get licenses in Salt Lake City currently.

Including Arkansas in the group of states with current litigation, there are twenty-six states in which it's still working its way through the courts. Or, to put it another way, there are twenty-seven states in which a court has rejected bans on same-sex marriage. Most of these were automatically granted appeals (and so we didn't get the situations as in Utah and Arkansas).

Many of these cases will proceed through the appeals courts soon. All of the federal ones will undoubtably be appealed to the Supreme Court (which will, doubtless, issue stays while they consider taking the cases). I suspect with this flood, the Supreme Court can't help but hear a same-sex marriage case in the 2014-2015 term.

Updated because I left Alaska off the list.

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