- Associated Press - Friday, June 26, 2015

The Latest on the impact of Supreme Court’s gay-marriage ruling in Arkansas: (All times Central)


5:15 p.m.

Arkansas’ highest court has dismissed a gay marriage lawsuit that had been filed in state court now that same-sex marriage is legal nationwide.

Justices late Friday rejected the state’s appeal of a Pulaski County judge’s ruling that struck down Arkansas’ constitutional amendment and an earlier state law defining marriage as between a man and a woman. The state court’s ruling came hours after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down gay marriage bans nationwide.

The one-paragraph ruling says the Arkansas case is now moot, citing the U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

Justices heard oral arguments in November in the case, but a final decision had been sidelined for months by a dispute over which justices should decide the case.


4 p.m.

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge says the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling means clerks must issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples on request, and also means the couples are entitled to the same government benefits that heterosexual married couples receive.

Rutledge on Friday sent a memo to state and local officials with guidance on how to respond to the high court legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide. Rutledge, a Republican, said the ruling does not compel religious institutions, clergy or private individuals to recognize gay marriages.

Rutledge said state and local officials must recognize same-sex marriages performed in Arkansas and other states, including licenses that were issued before the court’s ruling.

The attorney general wrote: “Government agencies which provide privileges and benefits to married couples or spouses of married individuals should provide the same privileges and benefits to married same-sex couples and same-sex spouses of married individuals. “

Rutledge said that includes allowing same-sex couples to file joint tax returns and allowing same-sex spouses to enroll in a government health insurance plan.


1:40 p.m.

The first same-sex couple married in Arkansas last year is celebrating the U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down gay marriage bans nationwide.

Jennifer Seaton-Rambo praised the nation’s high court for legalizing gay marriage nationwide and said she hoped it promote acceptance. Seaton-Rambo and her wife, Kristin, were the first to be issued a same-sex marriage license after a Pulaski County judge struck down Arkansas’ ban last year.

She said: “Love definitely won today. Our family will have protection and I can securely say that as of today. That means a lot. It’s an excellent feeling.”

The couple was the first to wed the morning after Circuit Judge Chris Piazza’s May 2014 ruling and was issued a license in the northwest Arkansas city of Eureka Springs.


1:10 p.m.

A Republican legislator says he believes Arkansas and other states should push for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution banning gay marriage after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage.

State Sen. Jason Rapert said he believes lawmakers should push for the amendment under a provision that would trigger a constitutional convention if 34 states apply for it. Rapert has been an outspoken opponent of gay marriage and authored a resolution supported by a legislative panel last year urging the state Supreme Court to uphold Arkansas’ amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

Rapert said the U.S. Supreme Court “has brought us to the brink of real crisis in our country. He says that if the court keeps ruling against the will of the people, “the people won’t take it for long.”


12:35 p.m.

Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Chris Piazza says he’s only performed 10 marriages in his career, but when he saw Earnie Matheson and Tony Chiaro Friday, he agreed quickly to marry them.

Matheson and Chiaro, who have been together for 26 years, were the first same-sex couple in Pulaski County to receive a marriage license after Friday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

Matheson said he wanted Piazza to marry them because he had started the ball rolling in Arkansas with his ruling last year to vacate Arkansas’ gay-marriage ban. A challenge to that ruling is sitting at the state Supreme Court.

After a short ceremony Piazza pronounced the men married. Matheson whispered, “We did it,” and kissed his husband.

The two plan to inscribe their rings with, “Today, tomorrow and forever.”


12:14 p.m.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson is ordering state agencies to comply with the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide.

The Republican governor says he believes the decision goes against Arkansans’ wishes and his own beliefs, but said he recognizes the responsibility of the state to follow the high court’s direction.

Hutchinson said: “As a result of this ruling, I will direct all state agencies to comply with the decision.”

Hutchinson said it was important to note that the high court’s decision was directed at the states to allow and recognize same-sex marriages. He said it wasn’t a directive for churches or pastors to recognize same-sex marriage.

Hutchinson took office in January and has opposed same-sex marriage.


11:30 a.m.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge says county clerks must follow the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to allow same-sex marriage.

Rutledge largely decried the ruling in a prepared statement released Friday. She said the ruling by the high court doesn’t reflect the will of Arkansas voters, who overwhelmingly supported a state constitutional amendment in 2004 against gay unions.

Rutledge said: “I am disappointed that the justices have chosen to ignore the role of the States to define marriage.”

Rutledge says her office will continue to review the landmark decision and says it is critically important to protect religious freedom moving forward. Some religious leaders and denominations oppose same-sex marriages.


11 a.m.

Some Arkansas counties are postponing the issuance of marriage licenses for same-sex couples despite a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court legalizing such unions.

Grant County Chief Deputy Clerk Linda McMaster said officials won’t issue the licenses without direction from Clerk Carol Ewing, who was out of the office Friday. McMaster says Ewing could be back by Monday. McMaster said no gay couples had sought licenses in the Sheridan area Friday morning.

Boone County Clerk Crystal Graddy said same-sex couples near Harrison will also likely have to wait until Monday to request licenses. She said county officials are working to update the license forms with gender-neutral terms and that the updated paperwork should be ready next week.

Graddy said Friday morning that no gay couples had inquired about a license in Harrison, either.


10:40 a.m.

One of the first couples who were married last year after gay marriage was briefly legalized in Arkansas says they’re elated by the U.S. Supreme Court decision to legalize same-sex marriages nationwide.

Thomas Baldwin, a railroad conductor from Bryant, said he and his husband can feel they’re equal “and not second class citizens.” Baldwin last year married his husband Devin last year after a Pulaski County judge struck down Arkansas’ gay marriage ban. The two were among the first in line at Pulaski County’s courthouse last year after Judge Chris Piazza struck down the ban.

Baldwin said he and Devin were adopting two children. He said they didn’t have any special events planned to mark the U.S. high court’s decision. Baldwin asked rhetorically: “How much more can you celebrate than starting a family?”


10:25 a.m.

The head of the Association of Arkansas Counties said his group is advising clerks they will have to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

“It is the law of the land now,” said Chris Villines, the association’s executive director. “It is our opinion that that ruling does stand and they will need to follow it.”

Villines said he believed the counties will be better prepared for dealing with the requests for same-sex licenses than they were last year, when gay marriage was briefly legalized in the state. He said clerks have had more time to prepare for the possibility of same-sex marriage being legalized.

He said there may be some counties that haven’t purchased gender-neutral forms for the licenses, but they should be able to redact the “Mr.” or “Mrs.” portion of the forms.


10:15 a.m.

A same-sex marriage license has been issued in Arkansas on the same day the U.S. Supreme Court legalized the unions nationwide.

Faulkner County Human Resource Officer Whitney Doolittle says a same-sex couple received a license in Conway just before 10:15 a.m. Friday. The Faulkner County clerk’s office directed media questions to Doolittle, who said she didn’t have any additional information about the couple.

Doolittle says the county began complying with the high court’s decision immediately following the ruling.


10:10 a.m.

The attorney for same-sex couples who challenged Arkansas’ gay marriage ban says she’s thrilled with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage and believes all Arkansas clerks should begin issuing licenses immediately.

Cheryl Maples says it appeared the justices “totally understand” that same-sex just want happiness like everyone else.

Maples represented couples who challenged in federal and state court a 2004 voter-approved constitutional amendment and earlier Arkansas law defining marriage as between a man and a woman. A federal appeals court put Arkansas’ case on hold while the federal justices weighed the issue of gay marriage nationwide, and the state Supreme Court has yet to issue a ruling.

Maples said the state Supreme Court still needs to decide whether voters can change an inalienable right in the constitution via referendum. She says that is what the 2004 gay marriage amendment does.


10 a.m.

The head of the group that campaigned for Arkansas’ gay marriage ban in 2004 says he believes a U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriages raises troubling questions about marriage that aren’t easily answered.

The president of the Arkansas Family Council, Jerry Cox, says “There are probably a dozen or more major questions.” Cox’ group spearheaded the campaign for the 2004 amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

Cox said he believed the nation’s highest court created uncertainty on how marriage is defined. He said he was worried that it would be used against those who oppose same-sex marriage on religious grounds.


9:40 a.m.

The Carroll County clerk says her office will immediately issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples following a landmark ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Clerk Jamie Correia said Friday morning that her office is ready to serve gay couples, who had been barred from marrying in Arkansas while the legality of same-sex marriage was held in legal limbo at the state and federal level.

She said one person called inquiring about a license within minutes of the high court’s Friday ruling. No one had lined up in advance of the decision but Correia says office workers are preparing for a busy day.

A Pulaski County judge last year tossed out a gay-marriage ban and, until the state Supreme Court said it would review the decision, some clerks issued licenses to same-sex couples. The first in the state were issued at the Carroll County Courthouse in Eureka Springs.


9:35 a.m.

Pulaski County Clerk Larry Crane says his office is prepared to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, but there was no line at his Little Rock office Friday morning.

The U.S. Supreme Court earlier Friday declared gay marriages legal nationwide.

In the weeks before Friday’s decision, Crane’s office had updated software to let deputies list those getting married as “Spouse 1” and “Spouse 2.” A form with the titles “bride” and “groom” is still available.

The clerk in Arkansas’ largest county held a hand to his heart after the ruling.

“It is a special day,” he said, choking up. “I’m honored to be a part of it.”



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