No stay issued for gay marriage ruling; high court says law still bars same-sex licenses

Posted: May 14, 2014 at 5:35 p.m.
Updated: May 14, 2014 at 6:53 p.m.

5/12/14 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/STEPHEN B. THORNTON James Paulus, left, and his husband Christopher Shelton embrace through the tears as Judge Wendell Griffen fills out their marriage license after they were wed in the rotunda of the Pulaski County Courthouse in Little Rock, Ark. Monday May 12, 2014. PLEASE OUT; APNewsNow-Little Rock market, TV-Little Rock market, Radio-Little Rock market, Online-Nationwide market, Arkansas Business, Arkansas Times.

The Arkansas Supreme Court has declined to issue a stay on a circuit judge's ruling last week that found the state's ban on gay marriages unconstitutional, but its opinion indicates that ruling does not give circuit or county clerks the authority to issue same-sex marriage licenses.

In the opinion released early Wednesday evening, the court said the ruling did not address an Arkansas law that prohibits a marriage license being "issued to persons of the same sex."

"Therefore, the circuit court's order has no effect on ... its prohibition against circuit and county clerks issuing same-sex marriage licenses," the opinion said.

In its ruling, the court also said "the circuit court has yet to rule on a pending motion for stay; therefore the petition is premature."

The court also granted the plaintiffs' request to dismiss the state's appeal because Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza's order "fails to rule on the injunctive relief or the constitutionality" of the law that forbids circuit and county clerks from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Piazza ruled late Friday afternoon that Arkansas' prohibitions against same-sex marriage were unconstitutional. That opened the door for gay marriages to begin Saturday in Eureka Springs, where the Carroll County courthouse has normal Saturday hours, and Monday in several other counties, including Pulaski.

A number of Arkansas counties opted not to issue licenses to same-sex couples, and Caroll, Marion and Saline counties all reversed course and ceased issuing the licenses after initially granting them, citing a lack of clarity in the law.

Pulaski and Washington counties were still issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples on Wednesday. However, after the Supreme Court released its opinion, Pulaski County Clerk Larry Crane said that his office would not be issuing licenses to same-sex couples on Thursday.

It wasn't immediately clear what the court's opinion meant for the same-sex couples who married after Piazza's ruling came down. Several hundred gay couples have been issued marriage licenses in Arkansas since the ruling.

Read Thursday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for more on this story.

Some information for this article was contributed by the Associated Press.