Plaintiffs in state-court challenge to gay marriage ban argue against stay


LITTLE ROCK — A pending challenge to Utah’s ban on gay marriage does not justify putting a hold on a challenge to Arkansas’ ban, according to attorneys for same-sex couples who brought the challenge in Arkansas.

Attorneys with Attorney General Dustin McDaniel’s office argued in recent federal and state court filings that a federal judge and the Arkansas Supreme Court should stay proceedings in Arkansas because a judge’s ruling striking down Utah’s same-sex marriage ban is being appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. They argued that only the U.S. Supreme Court can decide the matter in a way that is binding on all states.

The plaintiffs in the state-court challenge to Arkansas’ same-sex marriage ban argued in a response Friday that the outcome of the Utah case will not resolve their case because the Utah case is an appeal of a 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision and Arkansas is in the 8th Circuit. Also, the Arkansas case raises issues not raised in the Utah case, they argued.

“Because the 10th Circuit in Kitchen (v. Herbert) will not answer all questions of law raised by this case and the Supreme Court likely will not answer these questions either if it decides to review Kitchen, this case should proceed,” the plaintiffs said in their response.

They also argued that the U.S. Supreme Court has not yet said whether it will consider the Utah appeal, that the nation’s top court has said that staying one case pending the outcome of another is permissible only in rare circumstances, and that a stay would result on ongoing denial of the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights.

The plaintiffs in the federal-court challenge to Arkansas’ same-sex marriage ban filed a response Wednesday arguing against a stay.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza ruled May 9 that Arkansas’ same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional. The Arkansas Supreme Court stayed that ruling a week later, but in the meantime more than 500 gay couples obtained marriage licenses in the state. The attorney general’s office is appealing Piazza’s ruling to the state Supreme Court.

U.S. District Judge Kristin Baker has not yet ruled on the ban in the federal case.