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500 Same Sex Marriages to be Recognized in Ark.

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on June 10, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

From May 9, 2014 to May 15, 2014, same-sex marriage was legal in Arkansas when Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza struck down, as unconstitutional, a 2004 voter-approved same-sex marriage ban and an earlier state law defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

About 500 couples were married within that short period of time. Not long after, the state Supreme Court approved a petition from the state's attorney general to halt the issuance of such marriage licenses. Since then, those 500 same sex marriages have been in legal limbo as the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration decided that they are "void from inception as a matter of law."

That may no longer be the case.

Recognize These Marriages

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen ruled recently that Arkansas officials must legally recognize all the same-sex marriages performed within the six days window last May. According to Judge Griffen, denying these marriages is a "shameless disrespect for fundamental fairness and equality."

This victory may not be long lived as the state's Attorney General Leslie Rutledge told The Associated Press, "These marriages do not fall within the state's definition of marriage between one man and one woman." She has not said yet whether she will seek a stay of the ruling.

Why Does it Matter?

Other than validating 500 marriages, this ruling has a deeper effect in the lives of these same-sex couples. Arkansas' married same sex couples can now file taxes jointly, appear jointly on a child's birth certificate, enroll together on state health insurance plans, and file for divorce.

The Supreme Court's Upcoming Ruling

This ruling may pale in significance soon after the Supreme Court comes out with its decision in Obergefell v. Hodges.

In this case, the Supreme Court must decide whether the Constitution requires states to allow same-sex marriages. Currently, only 37 states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriages. If the Court rules in favor of marriage equality, all remaining hold-out states must also recognize same-sex marriages, including Arkansas.

Until then, Judge Griffen's ruling only recognizes the 500 same-sex marriage already performed in the state, and does not open the door to more same-sex marriages.

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