More than 200 gay couples obtained marriage licenses on Monday in the conservative Arkansas state in southern US after a judge tossed out its 10-year-old same-sex marriage ban, but only at a handful of courthouses as anoverwhelming majority of county clerks said they first wanted the state Supreme Court to weigh in.
Attorney General Dustin McDaniel who recently announced his personal support for same-sex marriage rights, but said he would defend the law and filed paperwork on Monday to at least temporarily preserve the ban.
In other states that have seen gay-marriage bans overturned, judges either issued stays with their orders or state lawyers sought them with some immediacy.
McDaniel’s office requested a stay from the local judge on Friday night but had to wait until the full court record was available on Monday before going to the state Supreme Court, under the justices’ rules.
Justices gave both sides until midday Tuesday to file arguments.
Seventy of the state’s 75 clerks have not granted licenses. A handful of clerks, including one who granted licenses on Monday, filed a stay request saying the judge’s decision didn’t address a law that threatens clerks with fines for “wrongful issuance of a marriage license.”
Arkansas became the 18th state to allow same-sex marriages, and the first among former states of the old Confederacy, which broke away from the US during its Civil War in the 1860s.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that a law forbidding the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages was unconstitutional.
“On our licenses, it automatically prints ‘Mr.’ and I told the girls just to change that to ‘Ms.’,” said Becky Lewallen, the county clerk in Washington County, which is home to the University of Arkansas. She was among those who requested a stay.
Friday’s ruling by Judge Chris Piazza also led the state Department of Health to let same-sex couples be listed as parents on birth certificates, said spokeswoman Kerry Krell.
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