The Norman Transcript

Nation/World

May 13, 2014

Gay couples marry in Arkansas; most clerks sit out

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — More than 200 gay couples obtained Arkansas marriage licenses Monday after a judge tossed out the state’s 10-year-old same-sex marriage ban, but only at a handful of courthouses, as an overwhelming majority of county clerks said they first wanted the state Supreme Court to weigh in.

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel — who recently announced his personal support for same-sex marriage rights but said he would defend the law — filed paperwork Monday to at least temporarily preserve the ban, which voters approved by a 3-to-1 margin.

In other states that have seen gay-marriage bans overturned, judges either issued stays with their orders or state lawyers sought them with some immediacy. McDaniel’s office requested a stay from the local judge Friday night but had to wait until the full court record was available Monday before going to the state Supreme Court, under the justices’ rules. Justices gave both sides until midday today to file arguments.

Seventy of the state’s 75 clerks have not granted licenses. A handful of clerks filed a stay request saying the judge’s decision didn’t address a law that threatens clerks with fines for “wrongful issuance of a marriage license.”

With the weddings Saturday and Monday, Arkansas became the 18th state to allow same-sex marriages.

“On our licenses, it automatically prints ‘Mr.’ and I told the girls just to change that to ‘Ms.”’ said Becky Lewallen, the county clerk in Washington County, which is home to the University of Arkansas.

A Pulaski County circuit judge tossed out the 2004 constitutional amendment, along with a 1997 state law, after business hours Friday. Carroll County, home to the town of Eureka Springs and known for its arts environment and liberal policies, issued 15 licenses to same-sex couples Saturday but stopped Monday to await word from the high court.

— AP

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