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Judge broadens gay-marriage ruling in new order

By Gavin Lesnick

This article was originally published May 15, 2014 at 9:44 a.m. Updated May 15, 2014 at 4:11 p.m.

couples-line-up-at-the-county-clerks-window-for-marriage-licenses-at-the-pulaski-county-courthouse-in-little-rock-on-monday-may-12-2014

Couples line up at the County Clerk's window for marriage licenses at the Pulaski County Courthouse in Little Rock on Monday, May 12, 2014.

No more changes to birth certificates after ruling

Arkansas is no longer allowing gay couples to be listed as the parents on birth certificates after the state's high court said a prohibition on same-sex marriage licenses is still in effect.

A spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Health said Thursday that it would no longer alter birth certificates for same-sex couples who sought to both be listed as parents after a judge voided the state's gay-marriage ban. The state Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to stay Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza's ruling, but noted that his decision didn't affect another law barring clerks from issuing marriage licenses to gay couples.

Kerry Krell said the department had changed birth certificates for 22 same-sex couples.

— The Associated Press

UPDATE

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza has declared unconstitutional a law that the state Supreme Court said Wednesday still prevented county clerks from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

In Pulaski County, the clerk's office was ready to offer same-sex marriage licenses minutes after the ruling was issued, county clerk Larry Crane said.

By 3 p.m., three same-sex couples had received marriage licenses at the Pulaski County courthouse.

Piazza on Friday issued a ruling that declared Arkansas' bans on same-sex unions unconstitutional, but it didn't mention one law that still barred clerks from issuing the licenses.

The Supreme Court said that omission meant clerks could not issue the licenses and same-sex marriages that had been granted in several counties came to a halt Thursday.

In a ruling issued Thursday afternoon, Piazza invalidated the law omitted from his earlier ruling, the 2004 constitutional amendment that defined marriage as being between a man and a woman and "all other state and local laws and regulations identified in plaintiff's complaint or otherwise in existence to the extent they do not recognize same-sex marriages ...."

He also denied a state request that he stay his order pending appeal and said it was a final judgment. The state Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed a state appeal of the first ruling because it was not final.

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel's office again filed a petition for an emergency stay of Piazza's ruling with the state Supreme Court soon after the new order was handed down Thursday.

Several counties began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples after the original ruling Friday, though some later reversed course and stopped, citing a lack of clarity in the law.

The Supreme Court said there should be no confusion since Piazza didn't address the law that prevents clerks from issuing same-sex licenses and that it still applies.

Pulaski and Washington counties were the only ones continuing to issue licenses Wednesday, but both ceased offering them Thursday after the Supreme Court opinion.

Crane, the Pulaski County clerk, said his office was prepared to again offer same-sex marriage licenses about 1:45 p.m., shortly after Piazza's new order came down.

Several such couples had sought marriage licenses earlier in the day and were turned away, he said.

Crane noted the new order is retroactive, so the validity of the marriages of several hundred same-sex couples who married in Arkansas this week is not threatened.

"I know that it's going to make a lot of people happy," he said of Piazza's ruling.

Washington County Attorney George Butler also said he expects the county to resume issuing same-sex marriage licenses Friday morning.

Officials from other counties that had earlier issued same-sex marriage licenses said Thursday they were not offering them early Thursday afternoon.

Officials who answered the phone at the Carroll and Marion clerk's offices said they were not issuing the licenses and were not aware of having received Piazza's new order. In Saline County, officials said clerk Doug Curtis was meeting with an attorney about the order.

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

EARLIER

The plaintiffs whose lawsuit resulted in Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza ruling Arkansas' ban on gay marriage unconstitutional have asked him to clarify the order to show it pertains to all laws that prevent same-sex unions.

The motion came Thursday morning, a day after the state Supreme Court said Piazza's ruling last week didn't affect a state law that prevents county clerks from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

In a response to the filing later Thursday, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel's office asked that Piazza stay, or freeze, his Friday ruling and any clarified order he may issue.

Several counties began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples after the ruling, though some later reversed course and stopped, citing a lack of clarity in the law.

The Supreme Court said there should be no confusion since Piazza didn't address one law that prevents clerks from issuing same-sex licenses and that it still applies.

Pulaski and Washington counties were the only ones continuing to issue licenses Wednesday, but both ceased offering them Thursday after the Supreme Court opinion.

The motion from attorneys Cheryl Maples and Jack Wagoner said it was evident Piazza's order was intended to be applied to all Arkansas laws that prevent same-sex couples from marrying.

But the attorneys said that because the high court noted the law that wasn't mentioned in the original ruling, Piazza should clarify his order to show he ruled unconstitutional the 2004 constitutional amendment that defined marriage as being between a man and a woman as well as "all other Arkansas laws that prevent same-sex couples from marrying or from having their lawful marriages recognized."

A clerk for Piazza said Thursday that she didn't know when Piazza might issue a response.

In the response from the attorney general's office asking Piazza for a stay, Assistant Attorney General Colin Jorgensen wrote that issuing one would prevent confusion.

"Only the Arkansas Supreme Court or the United States Supreme Court can decide the constitutionality of Arkansas’s marriage laws in a way that commands the respect, allegiance, and compliance of the entire State – and until the Arkansas Supreme Court or the United States Supreme Court provides that decision, any lower court ruling is subject to reversal," he wrote.

Jorgensen wrote that the state agrees there should be a clarified order or "a separate order that addresses all of the claims in this case, and is therefore final and appealable." The state Supreme Court on Wednesday declined to issue a stay of Piazza's ruling and dismissed the state's appeal, noting it wasn't Piazza's final ruling.

Several hundred same-sex couples have married in Arkansas since the ruling, though the Supreme Court opinion raises questions about whether those marriages will stand.

Comments on: Judge broadens gay-marriage ruling in new order

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SRBROTHERINLAW says... May 15, 2014 at 1:38 p.m.

IMPEACH IMPEACH IMPEACH,,,THIS MAN HAS GONE TO FAR AGAINST THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE

( | suggest removal )

ArkansasHawk says... May 15, 2014 at 1:48 p.m.

Wow you sound like an Arkansan from 1957 with the Desegregation ruling. Were you at Central High School in 1957?

( | suggest removal )

clark0214 says... May 15, 2014 at 1:52 p.m.

Very good news. Of course, in Arkansas, there would have to be drama on even the most obvious of rulings.

( | suggest removal )

Badger43 says... May 15, 2014 at 1:53 p.m.

This judge is up for reelection in November. Vote him OUT!

( | suggest removal )

RoyDaMercer says... May 15, 2014 at 2 p.m.

So can circuit judges just declare any constitutional amendment unconstitutional? If so there a ton of other amendments we can have him work on now, though I'm sure he has no desire since they would not get his name in the news.

( | suggest removal )

FarmBoy says... May 15, 2014 at 2:01 p.m.

Piazza is to big for his britches. They should be pulled down and spanked or removed fron the legal system.

( | suggest removal )

HotSpringsLawyer says... May 15, 2014 at 2:05 p.m.

Some of you aren't exactly Mr current eents. Judge Piazza is unoppsed for re-eletion, and the general election for dges is nest week.

Also, you can't impeach a judge because you believe he made an incorrct ruling, though I could propose a coupe of candidates if you could. The parties can appeal, in this instance directly to the Arkansas Supreme Court

( | suggest removal )

BirdDogsRock says... May 15, 2014 at 2:09 p.m.

Welcome to the light of the 21st century, Arkansas! This forward progress for equality under the law is inevitable in all 50 states and for the US as a whole. My hat is off to Judge Piazza; thanks to him, Arkansas is poised to be in a leading role on the right side of history and humanity.

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ArkansasHawk says... May 15, 2014 at 2:29 p.m.

Begin typing here... Arkansas leading the South into the 21st Century and Human Dignity.

( | suggest removal )

AdodiBro says... May 15, 2014 at 2:30 p.m.

Very interesting for a Southern state to be included in the granting of same-sex marriage privileges. I thought we would be the "last" Southern state to do this or not even consider the issue.

( | suggest removal )

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