LITTLE ROCK (KATV) – Much uncertainty still clouds Arkansas’s landmark ruling regarding the state’s now former same-sex marriage ban. With a potential stay to be issued on the ruling and an appeal already filed on the case, the continued future for same-sex marriage in Arkansas appears hazy.
Kristin McElroy and Jennifer Jarrell waited anxiously on Monday to be presented with their marriage license in Saline County. It’s one of seven counties that were listed in Arkansas’s same-sex marriage lawsuit – four of which, Pulaski, Saline, Washington & Monroe counties, actually issued same-sex marriage licenses statewide Monday.
The other three counties that were sued in the Pulaski County lawsuit, White, Lonoke and Conway counties did not issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. According to Terri Beiner, law professor at UALR Bowen Law School, technically those counties don’t have to issue those marriages due to a lack of an injunction in Judge Chris Piazza’s ruling.
“If he had issued an injunction and basically ordered the clerks that were subject to this case to actually issue marriage licenses and they refuse to, then there would be a basis to hold them in contempt of court,” said Beiner.
But Beiner mentions the ruling only classifies Arkansas’s former same-sex marriage ban as being unconstitutional, and because the ruling was made by a circuit court the ruling does not apply to the whole state – the ruling only applies to those listed in the lawsuit.
There is the possibility that Judge Piazza could issue a stay on his ruling, in effect stopping the issuance of same-sex marriage licenses, but keeping the validation of those that were already granted. Beiner doubts Piazza will issue a stay on his own ruling.
“I think he would have done so at the get-go if he was going to issue a stay,” commented Beiner.
Attorney General Dustin McDaniel has already filed the appeal on Piazza’s ruling. The appeal is to the Arkansas Supreme Court and if the state’s highest court were to rule in favor of Piazza’s ruling, same-sex marriage would become law statewide. If the appeal were to be successful, that’s where the true uncertainty sets in.
“Then they’re going to have to decide what to do with these marriages,” said Beiner. “Whether these marriages will remain valid, be grandfathered in or whether because they should never have taken place in the first place they are going to invalidate them.” If the appeal was successful it would be up to one of the same-sex marriage plaintiffs to take the case of the U.S. Supreme Court. Attorney General Dustin McDaniel said it was too early to comment on whether he would take similar action if the appeal was to be denied.