What seemed nothing short of impossible just a few weeks ago is now happening in the Arkansas, as marriage equality has made a surprise visit to the Natural State. Here’s more from LGBTQNation via the Associated Press…
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Couples lined up before dawn Monday outside Little Rock’s courthouse as the state’s largest county began issuing gay marriage licenses following a judge’s ruling overturning Arkansas’ constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.
The Pulaski County clerk’s office issued its first same-sex marriage license shortly after 8 a.m. After business hours closed Friday, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza ruled that Arkansas’ voter-approved ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional. Piazza did not issue a stay, and 15 same-sex couples obtained marriage licenses Saturday in the left-leaning tourist town of Eureka Springs.
The first Little Rock license went to Shelly Butler, 51, and Susan Barr, 48, of Dallas, who have been together since they met at Southern Arkansas University in 1985.
“When we heard the news in Arkansas, we had to jump in the car to get here,” Butler said shortly before receiving the license. “I’m just excited to marry my best friend of almost 30 years, finally.”
The second couple to receive a license was Thomas Baldwin, 37, and Devin Rudeseal, 24. The Bryant couple quickly married in the courthouse, and Rudeseal planned to take a final at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock later Monday morning.
Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, who recently said he supported gay marriage but would defend the ban, has asked Piazza to suspend his ruling. McDaniel said Saturday that he wants the state Supreme Court to take up the matter, but no appeal had been filed as of Monday morning.
More than 100 people gathered outside the Pulaski County courthouse before doors opened Monday. Randy Eddy-McCain, pastor of Open Door Community Church, was on hand to help perform marriage ceremonies for those seeking licenses at the courthouse. Eddy-McCain, who is gay, married his partner in New York. He said he looked forward to presiding over same-sex ceremonies in Arkansas.
“I want to get everybody in that I can before they issue a stay,” said Eddy-McCain, who along with his husband is a plaintiff in the lawsuit that led to Piazza’s ruling.
When Piazza didn’t issue a stay, Arkansas’ 75 county clerks were left to decide for themselves whether to grant marriage licenses. That caused confusion among county clerks, Association of Arkansas Counties executive director Chris Villines said.
A. G. McDaniel apparently didn’t see the need to file an emergency stay of Judge Piazza’s ruling, thereby setting the scene for future court battles just like the one that struck down California’s same-sex marriage ban. The marriage licenses issued during this interim period will form the backbone that could permanently bring marriage equality to Arkansas, and if it travels to the Supreme Court, may even have national implications. Besides Carroll County (home of Eureka Springs) and Pulaski County, same-sex marriage licenses are also being issued in Fayetteville, Arkansas at the Washington County courthouse, where dozens of couples were wed this morning. All told, hundreds of licenses could potentially be issued before the stay.
This is in stark contrast to the state of Texas, where Attorney General Greg Abbott begged the state appeals court to issue an emergency stay, which prevented the granting of any same-sex marriage licenses in the state.
Just like the historic integration of Little Rock Central High School in 1957, it appears Arkansas is leading the way again as new Civil Rights battles come to the South. Check back at Texas Leftist for more updates.
(photo credit: The Fayetteville Flyer)