Judge Orders Arkansas to Recognize Gay Marriages

     LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (CN) – A state judge on Tuesday ordered Arkansas officials to recognize the marriages of more than 500 same-sex couples performed during a brief window last year.
     The ruling by Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Lee Griffen on June 9 forces the state to also extend the married couples benefits including state health insurance.
     Judge Griffen said the refusal of the state to recognize the same-sex marriages as valid violates the couples’ rights to due process and equal protection.
     “With shameless disrespect for fundamental fairness and equality, (Arkansas Department of Finance Director Larry Walther) insists on treating the marriages of same-sex couples who received marriage licenses between May 9 and May 15 as ‘void from inception as a matter of law,'” Griffen’s opinion says.
     Judge Chris Piazza, of Arkansas’s Sixth Circuit Court, struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage as unconstitutional on May 9, 2014. The move resulted in a week-long window in which more than 500 gay couples married before the Arkansas Supreme Court issued a stay in the case that halted the ceremonies.
     In February, same-sex couples filed suit against Arkansas Department of Finance Director Larry Walther and Carolyn W. Colvin, Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, seeking recognition of their marriages.
     Tuesday’s order validates the marriages of same-sex couples married between May 10 and May 16, 2014, and requires Walther to accept joint income tax returns and applications for state health insurance.
     Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, a Republican, continued to defend the state’s same-sex marriage ban but did not say whether she would appeal Griffen’s ruling.
     “These marriages do not fall within the state’s definition of marriage as between one man and one woman,” Rutledge said in a statement. “I am evaluating the ruling and will determine the best path forward to protect the state’s interest.”
     The U.S. Supreme Court is weighing a decision on same-sex marriage that is expected to be released by the end of the month.

%d bloggers like this: