Politics

Lawyers: Don't suspend gay marriage ruling

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Lawyers for gay couples asked the state's highest court Tuesday to let same-sex weddings continue amid a fight over Arkansas' gay marriage ban, while more than half the counties that had granted licenses to same-sex couples changed course.

Since a Pulaski County judge set aside Arkansas' voter-approved ban late Friday, 400 gay couples have received marriage licenses, according to an Associated Press canvas of county clerks. Only Pulaski and Washington counties issued licenses to same-sex couples Tuesday, after Carroll, Marion and Saline counties said they would wait until the case is fully resolved.

"If the time comes that we are informed that the licenses are to be resumed, we will do so immediately," Carroll County Clerk Jamie Correia said in a statement. Attorney General Dustin McDaniel asked the state Supreme Court on Monday to put on hold Judge Chris Piazza's order rejecting the ban; lawyers for couples who challenged the ban replied Tuesday.

"The public has no interest in enforcing unconstitutional laws or in relegating same-sex couples and their families to a perpetual state of financial and legal vulnerability," the attorneys argued in the brief.

The Supreme Court did not issue a ruling by the end of the day. Justices typically issue opinions on Thursdays but stray from their regular schedule on matters they deem urgent. Clerks in Pulaski County, which contains the capital of Little Rock, and Washington County, home to Fayetteville and the University of Arkansas, continued to issue additional licenses to gay couples Tuesday.

"I took an oath to support the constitution of the U.S. and the state of Arkansas and to essentially obey the law," Pulaski County Clerk Larry Crane said. "If the Supreme Court stays the order, I will abide by the Supreme Court. I will obey the law."

Pulaski County has issued 243 licenses, Washington County 122, Carroll 28, Saline six and Marion one. McDaniel has said he supports same-sex marriage personally, but will defend Arkansas' ban in court. McDaniel argues that Piazza's decision has sown confusion across the state.

McDaniel also has notified the courts that he would appeal Piazza's ruling outright; lawyers for the gay couples say that move was premature. According a filing late Tuesday, the couples' lawyers say a final order and an answer on a separate state law governing clerks need to be addressed first.

Justices gave the state until 10:30 a.m. Wednesday to file a response. Gov. Mike Beebe, who has said he opposes same-sex marriage, told reporters Tuesday he thinks it will ultimately be up to the Arkansas Supreme Court to decide whether the marriages are valid.

"I quit practicing law a number of years ago, so I think the Supreme Court will have to answer that question," said Beebe, a Democrat and former attorney general.