Ark. court: Ruling on gay marriage said nothing about licenses

 

The Arkansas Supreme Court on Wednesday night found that the state ban on issuing gay marriage licenses is still in effect, despite the prohibition of same-sex marriage having been found unconstitutional.

The high court agreed with a plaintiff’s description that a lower court last week "only ruled on the declaratory judgment aspect of the case and has not ruled upon the injunctive relief issue.”

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In other words, the lower court judge handed down his opinion without requiring any enforcement for it. The high court said part of the Arkansas law was not addressed, though it actually denied a stay of the lower court''s action.

After the Wednesday ruling, the two county clerks that had begun issuing gay marriage licenses in the state said they would discontinue issuing the licenses for the time being.

The Arkansas attorney general earlier this week requested a stay of Pulaski County Judge Christopher Piazza's summary judgment that found a 1997 state law and a 2004 state constitutional amendment defining marriage between one man and one woman were both unconstitutional. 

The attorney general argued for the stay because the ruling had created confusion among county clerks, with a few beginning to issue gay marriage licenses, though most continued to refuse. 

In its ruling, the Arkansas Supreme Court found Piazza did not give a final ruling on a key section of the Arkansas code that prohibits county clerks from issuing gay marriage licenses — leaving that section of the law still in place. 

Piazza's ruling had no effect on the state's "prohibition against circuit and county clerks issuing same-sex marriage licenses. Accordingly, we deny the State’s petition for an emergency stay," the court wrote

The Supreme Court also dismissed the attorney general's appeal of the lower court decision for much of the same reason. The court ruled that the attorney general cannot file the appeal because the judge has not issued a final ruling.

The state is expected to reissue its appeal when it is "ripe."