Good news: The Arkansas Supreme Court has upheld the lower court ruling allowing for same-sex marriage in the state. Bad news: The Court didn’t strike down a separate law forbidding clerks from issuing same-sex marriage licenses. The result: weddings are legal in Arkansas but county clerks won’t issue licenses because they would be breaking the law if they did.
More than 450 couples have been issued marriage licenses since a judge last Friday struck down the state’s constitutional amendment banning marriage. However, that judge, Chris Piazza, didn’t make a ruling on the law, passed in a surfeit of homophobia by the legislature, that would fine clerks who dared to issue same-sex marriage licenses. County clerks had been looking to the Supreme Court to clarify the matter, but the court didn’t address the law targeting clerks either.
Undoubtedly, some county clerks are relieved to fall back on the law so that they don’t have to issue licenses. Only five of the 70 counties in Arkansas were willing to issue licenses following Piazza’s ruling.
Those couples who have licenses can still get married, muddying the legal waters even more. Meanwhile, attorneys for the couples who challenged the ban in the first place will be pushing Piazza to clarify matters when he issues his final order. “I would argue that is implicit in his ruling, but we’re going to have to get him to address that,” lawyer Jack Wagoner said.