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Monday, September 01, 2014, 2:45 p.m.
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Same-sex couples marry in Pulaski County; McDaniel seeks stay

By Gavin Lesnick

This article was originally published May 12, 2014 at 6:44 a.m. Updated May 12, 2014 at 5:03 p.m.

mark-norwine-left-and-jonathan-keith-gober-are-married-monday-in-a-ceremony-at-the-pulaski-county-courthouse

Mark Norwine, left, and Jonathan Keith Gober are married Monday in a ceremony at the Pulaski County Courthouse.

Same-sex couples marry in Pulaski County for first time

Same-sex couples in Pulaski County married Monday for the first time after a Friday ruling struck down the state's bans on same-sex unions. (By Gavin Lesnick)
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Gay rights group seeks couples' full recognition

The head of a gay-rights group is seeking full federal recognition of same-sex couples married in Arkansas.

Gay couples began getting married in the state Saturday and more were lined up to wed Monday. Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin said the group asked the Department of Justice to recognize the unions. A similar move was extended to Utah couples who married before a gay-marriage ruling was put on hold.

Arkansas' attorney general has filed a notice that he would appeal a judge's ruling that paved the way for this weekend's same-sex marriages.

A lawyer for gay couples who sued for the right to obtain a marriage license in Arkansas said if the state's Supreme Court rules against them, they would appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

5 p.m. update

The Pulaski County clerk's office had issued 169 marriage certificates to same-sex couples as of 4:51 p.m. Monday, said Anthony Cooper, an administrative assistant with the office.

2 p.m. update

The Pulaski County clerk's office had issued 161 marriage certificates to same-sex couples as of 1:50 p.m., officials there said.

By that time, a long line that had been present most of the morning had died down, but several couples were still in the office filling out paperwork to get a license.

The first license was issued at 8 a.m. Pulaski County Clerk Larry Crane said his office would continue issuing licenses to same-sex couples during regular hours unless a stay of Friday's ruling overturning the state's gay marriage ban is issued.

12:40 p.m. update

The Arkansas Supreme Court has received a motion from Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel to stay a circuit judge's ruling overturning the state's ban on same-sex marriages pending appeal.

If approved, the stay would at least temporarily stop clerks from issuing same-sex marriage licenses.

Stephanie Harris, a spokesman for the Arkansas Supreme Court, said it's unclear when the court will make a decision on the stay.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza's Friday ruling that found the same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional came in a lawsuit in which the state was a defendant. Harris said in an email that a response to the stay motion from the plaintiffs is due by noon Tuesday.

9:55 a.m. update

Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel has asked the state's highest court to suspend a judge's ruling striking down the state's gay marriage ban.

McDaniel asked the Arkansas Supreme Court on Monday to stay Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza's ruling that a 2004 constitutional amendment and a 1997 law banning same-sex marriage are unconstitutional. Dozens of gay couples have received marriage licenses since Piazza's ruling was issued late Friday afternoon.

McDaniel has already told Piazza he's appealing the decision to the state Supreme Court.

McDaniel, a Democrat, has said he supports same-sex marriage but has vowed to continue defending the ban because he believes it's his duty.

9:50 a.m. update

Same-sex couples in Pulaski County married for the first time Monday in a flurry of activity at the county courthouse.

Dozens of couples lined up outside overnight, with the first arriving about midnight, and more than 65 had picked up applications for marriage certificates by the time the clerk's office began accepting them at 8 a.m.

First to receive a marriage certificate was Shelly Butler, 51, and Susan Barr, 48, who have been together for nearly 30 years after first meeting at Southern Arkansas University. The two were married moments later in a ceremony just steps from the clerk's desk.

The two shared a quick kiss and Butler raised her arms in excitement after the officiant pronounced them "legally married," drawing applause from supporters and dozens of other couples waiting nearby for their own marriage certificates.

"Today means the world," Butler said. "It's a long time coming."

Mark Norwine, 51, and Jonathan Keith Gober, 35, both of Little Rock, received their marriage certificate a short time later before heading to the courthouse rotunda for their wedding. Both were in tears as they embraced just before it started.

The couple were among the plaintiffs in the lawsuit that resulted in Piazza overturning the state's ban on same-sex marriages. That ruling, issued late Friday afternoon, opened the door for the state's first same-sex unions Saturday in Eureka Springs and Pulaski County's first same-sex marriages Monday.

Norwine and Gober said they never expected to be married before the case reached at least the state Supreme Court and possibly the U.S. Supreme Court. But they were happy it came earlier than expected after almost 10 years together.

"I've always dreamed about this moment," Gober said, "and it finally came true to the man I love."

Thomas Baldwin 37, and Devin Rudeseal, 24, were the first in the long line that snaked around the front of the Pulaski County courthouse after arriving around midnight, but they ended up being the second couple to get a marriage certificate and to wed. The line formed at the Markham Street exit, but Butler, who is in a wheelchair, and Barr went to an accessible entrance on Spring Street and were allowed in first. They said they got to the courthouse about 45 minutes before the doors opened.

Baldwin and Rudeseal, who were married moments after Butler and Barr in a ceremony officiated by Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen, said they didn't mind being second.

"[I'm] ecstatic," Baldwin said moments after the ceremony. "I feel like I'm going to burst. So excited. This has been a wonderful day."

7:50 a.m. update:

More than 50 same-sex couples have begun filling out paperwork Monday to receive marriage certificates at the Pulaski County Courthouse.

Couples were filling out forms in advance of the 8 a.m. start of issuing certificates.

By 7:40 a.m., the clerk's office had handed out 63 applications.

Pulaski County Clerk Larry Crane said his office updated its software and was prepared to issue as many certificates as sought unless a stay of Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza's Friday ruling striking down the state's gay-marriage ban is issued.

He addressed the crowd outside the court when the doors opened about 7 a.m.

"I was honored," he said, choking up with emotion. "I was humbled. Happy to be part of the process."

Earlier

Couples eager to marry after a Friday ruling overturned Arkansas' ban on same-sex unions lined up overnight at the Pulaski County Courthouse, which was set to open for the first time since the ruling came down.

By 6 a.m., more than 50 people were in a line that snaked from the courthouse steps on Markham Street along the front of the building and onto the sidewalk below. More than 15 couples, as well as supporters, were among those waiting.

First in line were Thomas Baldwin 37, and his fiance Devin Rudeseal, 24, who arrived about midnight and watched as more couples showed up "about every 30 minutes."

"And now it's pretty full," Baldwin said, eyeing the line with a smile. "It's been an emotional and exciting day."

Baldwin said he and Rudeseal wanted to be first to ensure they get married before a potential stay of the ruling. Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel has said that though he personally supports same-sex marriage, the state will appeal the ruling.

The first same-sex marriages in the state happened Saturday in Eureka Springs, where the courthouse keeps Saturday hours. Pulaski County officials said over the weekend that the clerk would issue marriage certificates to same-sex couples beginning at 8 a.m., though some Arkansas counties said they would not.

Beverly Best, 24, and Ashley Mueller, 25, were also near the front of the line after arriving a little after 1 a.m. Mueller said it felt "like a dream" to be on the verge of getting married. The couple, who live in Little Rock and have a 5-year-old daughter, have been together for nearly 9 years.

The two will get married immediately "just in case it gets turned down," Mueller said, and then have a ceremony in September. They are hopeful the marriage will allow Mueller to become a legal parent of the daughter she and Best are raising.

"She's been bugging us for years to get married," Best said. "She doesn't understand why somebody wouldn't let two people get married. She doesn't see gender, she just sees love."

Baldwin, who called Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza's ruling "shocking" and "moving," said he and Rudeseal would get the marriage certificate and then get married immediately.

"It's great to see this many people come out and be a part of it," he said. "This is Arkansas history."

Information for this article was contributed by The Associated Press.

Comments on: Same-sex couples marry in Pulaski County; McDaniel seeks stay

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Dontcallmenames says... May 12, 2014 at 7:15 a.m.

Calling something marriage does not make it marriage. Marriage has always been a covenant between a man and a woman which is by its nature ordered toward the procreation and education of children and the unity and wellbeing of the spouses.

The promoters of same-sex “marriage” propose something entirely different. They propose the union between two men or two women. This denies the self-evident biological, physiological, and psychological differences between men and women which find their complementarity in marriage. It also denies the specific primary purpose of marriage: the perpetuation of the human race and the raising of children.

Two entirely different things cannot be considered the same thing.

( | suggest removal )

1soni says... May 12, 2014 at 7:46 a.m.

DCMN - a) You don't need a marriage certificate to perpetuate the human race or raise children.
b) Are you saying If you can't have children, you needn't get married?
c) are you saying that you need to be married to care about the well-being of someone?

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nlrar009 says... May 12, 2014 at 8:07 a.m.

DCMN, my wife and I have been married for over 40 years. Never had children, does that make our marriage unnatural?

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hah406 says... May 12, 2014 at 8:15 a.m.

Marriage in the eyes of the government is a contract between two people who agree to share certain property, rights, and responsibilities. As a result of this contract, the government then bestows upon the couple certain rights, financial rewards, and other rewards. And the Constitution says you cannot discriminate against an unpopular minority. The Constitution exists to protect the minority from the tyranny of the majority. So "DCMN", get over it.

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drs01 says... May 12, 2014 at 8:51 a.m.

You can label it a civil union...you can bestow all the "rights" granted to married couples. But you don't have to stand for a judge's Friday 5pm ruling that cuts off any stay order. You don't have to accept it since 75% of Arkansas voters defined marriage as a union of man and woman; the leg agreed and the gov sign it. You don't have to flaunt this lifestyle on the front page of the Mothers' Day Sunday edition. I pity those guys and gals who are living together, have been for years, and decided not to get married. They are the ones being discriminated against. You don't hear them complaining and making demands. Are they the next frontier? Piazza is not king, and his ruling will be overturned.

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RBBrittain says... May 12, 2014 at 9:08 a.m.

@drs01: You got ONE thing right: "Piazza is not king" -- the U.S. Constitution is, over even a hasty amendment to the Arkansas Constitution making SOME people's religious views law. Just because YOUR preacher (or mine) doesn't like it does NOT mean it should be illegal!

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80Redux says... May 12, 2014 at 9:26 a.m.

Humankind has a recorded history that goes back at least five millenia. Except in Rome immediately before its fall, nowhere in human history has marriage been defined homosexually. What makes us believe that we are smarter than the billions that have gone before us? What wisdom are we employing that has not been considered millions of times and been rejected.
.
As far as religion goes. I've learned two things (1) there is a God and (2) I'm not him. As a Christian, it is my job to love all people and I love homosexuals. My sister is gay and will probably be one of those getting married. I love her, yet I still call sin, well sin. Then again, I'm a sinner myself and I'm not the judge. That's between her and God.
.
The bottom line is that I have every right to my opinion. To demonize me for my beliefs is tantamount to Facism. Freedom of Belief! Freedom of Speech! Freedom to Congregate! Thank God our country codified those Freedoms!!

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Populist says... May 12, 2014 at 9:27 a.m.

Today, I am PROUD to be an Arkansan! Best wishes to the many happy couples!

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RBBrittain says... May 12, 2014 at 9:33 a.m.

Gavin, earlier you said Thomas Baldwin & Devin Rudeseal were first in line, but now you say Shelly Butler & Susan Barr were first to actually get a license. One TV station (citing the AP) agrees it's Butler & Barr; the other says "Tommy and Devin, Mr. and Mr. Baldwin, of Bryant" were first in line AND first to get their license. Make sure the facts are straight; remember you're recording history here, no matter what you or I may think about what's going on. (Kudos to Bill Bowden for reporting WHO performed Kristin Seaton & Jennifer Rambo's wedding in Eureka Saturday; most other outlets thought "a woman in a rainbow suit" was enough. Even today, the world still needs print media to get it RIGHT...)

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ArkansasHawk says... May 12, 2014 at 9:44 a.m.

"All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression."-Thomas Jefferson

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