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Two counties halt issuing same-sex marriage licenses

By Gavin Lesnick

This article was originally published May 13, 2014 at 9:54 a.m. Updated May 13, 2014 at 11:42 a.m.

Two Arkansas counties have stopped issuing same-sex marriage licenses a day after granting them to couples.

In a statement issued Tuesday, Saline County Clerk Doug Curtis criticized Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza for overturning a ban on gay marriages that was based in part on a constitutional amendment passed by voters in 2004 defining marriage as being between a man and a woman.

Officials at the clerk's office said two couples attempted to marry before 10 a.m. Tuesday and were instead given copies of the statement.

"Elected officials should be empowering voters, not overruling their vote," Curtis said in the statement, adding later: "With [reckless] abandonment, Judge Piazza declared Amendment 83 unconstitutional and did not exercise wisdom by placing a stay on his decision."

Marion County Clerk Dee Carleton, meanwhile, told The Associated Press that her office suspended issuing the licenses Tuesday after consulting with attorneys. The office issued one same-sex marriage license on Monday.

Because no stay was issued when the ruling came down late Friday afternoon, same-sex couples began to marry in several Arkansas counties. The first licenses were issued in Eureka Springs in Carroll County, where the courthouse has regular Saturday hours, and then Monday in several other counties, including Pulaski and Saline.

Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel personally supports gay marriage but has vowed to appeal the ruling because his office is responsible for defending state laws. The Arkansas Supreme Court on Monday received a request for a stay, which if granted would halt same-sex marriages in the state.

The statement from Saline County, where six same-sex couples married Monday, said officials there issued licenses then because they believed it was the law. But, it said, "additional information" revealed the "law concerning marriages" to be "vague and unclear."

"Therefore until the law is clarified and the state is following one law in unity, the Saline County Clerk's office will follow" the constitutional amendment passed by voters, the statement said.

Asked Tuesday what additional information had come up, clerk's office chief deputy Darlene Westbrook said that the office was "waiting to hear from the Supreme Court" and referred a reporter back to the original statement.

Curtis added in that letter that judges should not "have the authority with the stroke of a pen to dismiss over 750,000 Arkansas voters."

"This is the very reason that we have Supreme Court justices that are elected on a statewide basis," he said.

Comments on: Two counties halt issuing same-sex marriage licenses

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Displaying 1 - 9 of 9 total comments

T6 says... May 13, 2014 at 10:51 a.m.

Finally, A Judge with some sense.

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lilith2u says... May 13, 2014 at 12:12 p.m.

So a Circuit Clerk now overrules a Circuit Court Judge? Does this incredibly ignorant clerk understand that the Pulaski County Court is the first court to hear issues relating to Constitutionally protected rights? This imbecile and the one in Faulkner county need to consult a Constitutional scholar on why Judge Piazza and ultimately the US Supreme Court will come to the same conclusion. These clerks would have been the ones refusing to marry mixed race couples under the miscegenation laws of Jim crow. Marriage is a fundamental right, the Arkansas and the US Supreme Courts will strike down any law that removes a fundamental right to any person or group. Judge Piazza's very scholarly analysis is so well articulated all the Arkansas Court need do is rubber stamp it.

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SRBROTHERINLAW says... May 13, 2014 at 12:57 p.m.

LILITH2U...YOU ARE THE EPITOME OF AN ID-10-T ERROR

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RBBrittain says... May 13, 2014 at 1:53 p.m.

SRBROTHERINLAW, *YOU* are the ID10T error, even though lilith2u misstated Curtis' title (he is a COUNTY clerk -- marriage licenses in Arkansas are issued by county clerks except in counties where it's combined with the circuit clerk, like Pulaski, or in the 9 out of 10 dual-seat counties -- all but Yell -- with separate circuit & county clerks where EITHER clerk may issue them). Curtis is one of the six county clerks (in Pulaski, Saline, Lonoke, White, Conway & Washington Counties) sued in Judge Piazza's court, thus he is DIRECTLY subject to the judge's order unless & until it is stayed; he can be sanctioned by Judge Piazza if he doesn't comply. Faulkner County originally was also a defendant, but was dismissed for strategic reasons before the final ruling; that county, as well as Marion & Carroll (which also stopped after starting), have more of a leg to stand on as they're not directly subject to Judge Piazza's order.

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HalALouyah says... May 13, 2014 at 2:39 p.m.

I'm going to trust in our great Governor and not this coward of a judge; let it go to the Supreme Court.

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RBBrittain says... May 13, 2014 at 2:57 p.m.

Whoops, I also made a minor mistake: Prairie County also has dual seats with a combined circuit & county clerk's office, so it's 8 of 10. (That's by the vernacular with 10 dual "county seats", though technically only Sebastian County actually HAS two "county seats" due to special language in the Arkansas Constitution. In the other 9 one is the "county seat" while the other is properly called a "district seat"; the difference is basically relevant only to lawyers. ;) )

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SHEILA.MCCOOL336 says... May 13, 2014 at 5:53 p.m.

T6, a county clerk is far from being a judge! When we, as citizens don't follow a judge's ruling, we can and should be held in contempt and punished accordingly. This issue was voted on in 2004, but a lot changes in 10 years. Hopefully tolerance, attitudes, and far less bigotry. Our own Attorney General has stated that he is for same sex marriage rights, but he feels that he has to attempt to uphold Ar. law, because that is his job and he must do that regardless of his own personal views on the issue, something these county clerks seem unable to do. When religious beliefs start interfering with a person's constitutional rights, and they are unable to follow rulings that were handed down by the courts, it's time for that person to step down and let someone else take over the position that can separate their personal beliefs from the court's rulings.

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T6 says... May 13, 2014 at 6:54 p.m.

My bad...

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BirdDogsRock says... May 15, 2014 at 11:06 a.m.

It is fascinating to see how imbalanced the facts and thoughtfulness are between the opposing sides in commentary about this issue. Opponents of gay marriage seem consistently to demonstrate misunderstanding of basic civics, fear of "different" people, and cruel paranoia borne of religious doctrine and fervor. Contrary to the way things ought to be, the ones actually exercising the Golden Rule are those supporting the basic rights of gay people to choose who to love and marry, and to pursue happiness without discrimination and persecution by the government.

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