The rights of gay people to commit to same-sex marriage have finally been approved in Arkansas. The Pulaski County Circuit Court has ruled that a constitution amendment that was passed in 2004 by voters was an unconstitutional crack at trying to constrict the meaning of equality as set forth in the charter. The ruling also upended a state law created in 1997 that banned gay marriage. However, due to the fact that the court did not issue a stay, county clerks in Arkansas were left to decide for themselves whether or not they would grant petitions to marry to gay couples.
All in all, 15 marriage licenses were issued in Arkansas’ Carroll County alone for the celebration of same-sex espousals. They commenced on the day after approval was given by the county court, and were given to the applicants by the local county clerk. One such couple had driven all night in order to celebrate their nuptials. They were married moments after they had received their license to wed, right down the street from the county clerk’s office on a sidewalk near the law building. The ceremony officiator wore a rainbow inspired dress in celebration of the modern law.
There was some confusion in the early morning hours the day after the ruling came down. County deputy clerks were not sure if they had the authority to issue the marriage licenses and had driven people away from their offices that were waiting in line for the permits. This caused some people to literally break into tears, as they had been waiting for 50 years or so to be married in the eyes of the American Government.
It was not known at first if other counties had issued any same-sex licenses. Although they were open early in the morning, they stated that they were open for pre-election voting only and that they were not ready yet to issue any of the same-sex marriage certificates in their region of Arkansas, even though they had gotten approval from the Pulaski County Circuit Court to go ahead and give them out. The county clerks feel that the court’s ruling did not give them enough time to work the expected kinks out of the system before implementing it.
This comes a year after the Supreme Court of the United States of America had struck down a law that allowed the federal government to mask the knowledge of the need for same-sex marriage. Other regions have already struck down similar laws in their respective states that have banned same-sex marriage, having already approved the action that Arkansas has just accomplished. These states include Oklahoma, Michigan, Texas and Virginia. The aforementioned states had also ordered states such as Tennessee, Kentucky and Ohio to recognize same-sex marriage in their states that had been performed in other states.
Some critics of the Arkansas court ruling are saying that the judge’s decision not have a stay in the ruling will eventually create confusion in the ranks if a stay is issued from a higher court. This may be just is happening. The United States Attorney general has announced their intent to appeal the lower court’s ruling and have the Supreme Court to look into the matter. However, there has been no formal appeal filed as of yet. Be that as it may, if the County Courts ruling is upheld by the higher court, Arkansas would join the ranks of 17 other states, including Washington, D.C. and Massachusetts that has approved same-sex marriage. Massachusetts had been the very first state in the Americas to have approved same-sex marriage back in 2004.
The push to accept same-sex marriage has grown across the United States. Since last year when the Supreme Court forbade the federal government from discriminating against same-sex marriage, lower court judges have continuously referred to that decision when striking down their own state laws in that regard. Yet the approved lifting of the ban on same-sex marriage in Arkansas has the potential to create consternation in the process because the judge has not issued a stay that would halt another court from further legal process in the event of a future trial.
By Korrey Laderoute