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State's high court issues stay of gay-marriage ruling

Posted: May 16, 2014 at 9:48 a.m.
Updated: May 16, 2014 at 4:33 p.m.

UPDATE:

The Arkansas Supreme Court has issued an emergency stay of a circuit judge's ruling that overturned the state's bans on gay marriages, at least temporarily halting counties from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples pending appeal.

In an order issued Friday afternoon, the court said the stay was granted but didn't release any information about the decision.

In Pulaski County, a final marriage license was issued to a same-sex couple shortly before the decision came down. The office then stopped offering licenses to same-sex couples.

Piazza ruled initially last week to overturn the state's constitutional amendment defining marriage as being between a man and a woman and another state law that prohibited same-sex unions.

In the proceeding days, county clerks in parts of Arkansas issued marriage licenses to several hundred same-sex couples.

The attorney general's office immediately sought a stay of the order and while the state Supreme Court declined to issue one then, it did say in an opinion Wednesday that Piazza's ruling had omitted any mention of a state law that prohibits county clerks from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

That brought the practice to halt, but only temporarily. Piazza amended his order and issued a new, final version retroactive to the original release that struck down the law that had been omitted and all other state laws and regulations prohibiting gay marriage.

In at least three counties — Pulaski, Conway and Washington — clerks on Friday were issuing same-sex marriage licenses.

The attorney general's office, whose appeal of Piazza's order was dismissed earlier in the week when the court declined to issue a stay, filed another appeal of Piazza's final order and sought again for an emergency stay.

The Supreme Court decision on the stay Friday came just hours after the plaintiffs — whose lawsuit resulted in Piazza's ruling — filed a motion arguing against the measure, contending one wasn't necessary and it's not likely the state's appeal of Piazza's ruling will succeed.

UPDATE:

The state Supreme Court is set to release its decision at 4:30 p.m. on whether to issue a stay of Circuit Judge Chris Piazza's ruling overturning the state's bans on gay marriages.

UPDATE:

Plaintiffs in a case challenging Arkansas' prohibitions on same-sex marriage on Friday filed a response arguing against the state's request for an emergency stay of Circuit Judge Chris Piazza's latest ruling.

The response asserts that the Supreme Court should deny and dismiss the state's request for a stay pending appeal, because the defendants "have failed to allege facts or law establishing their entitlement to the stay requested" and the motion was denied in circuit court.

It also states that the defendants' request doesn't demonstrate the necessity of a stay — both in terms of any irreparable harm the order might pose if it's allowed to stand pending appeal as well as the likelihood that an appeal would ultimately be successful.

EARLIER:

The Arkansas Supreme Court has moved to this afternoon a deadline for the plaintiffs to argue against a stay of Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza's ruling overturning the state's bans on same-sex marriage.

A spokesman for the court said the deadline, which had originally been set for noon Monday, was shifted to 2 p.m. Friday.

It's not clear when the state's high court will make a decision on whether to stay, or freeze, Piazza's ruling.

Piazza ruled initially last week to overturn the state's constitutional amendment defining marriage as being between a man and a woman and another state law that prohibited same-sex unions.

In the proceeding days, county clerks in parts of Arkansas issued marriage licenses to several hundred same-sex couples.

The attorney general's office immediately sought a stay of the order and while the state Supreme Court declined to issue one, it did say in an opinion Wednesday that Piazza's ruling had omitted any mention of a state law that prohibits county clerks from issuing same-sex marriage licenses.

That brought the practice to halt, but only temporarily. Piazza amended his order and issued a new, final version retroactive to the original release that struck down the law that had been omitted and all other state laws and regulations prohibiting gay marriage.

In at least two counties — Pulaski and Washington — clerks on Friday were again issuing same-sex marriage licenses.

But that could be halted again if the Supreme Court decides to issue a stay of the final order, which the state appealed after its release Thursday afternoon.

The Supreme Court typically meet on Wednesdays and again in a public session on Thursday. It's not known if they will meet before then to decide on a stay or if a decision will come later next week. It wasn't clear what prompted the court to move up its deadline for a response.

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