Plaintiffs in the lawsuit challenging Arkansas’s same-sex marriage ban have filed a motion this morning asking Judge Chris Piazza to clarify his order to make clear that he intended to rule all statutes that prevent clerks from issuing marriage licenses are unconstitutional.
Piazza overturned the law and constitution Friday. Wednesday, the Arkansas Supreme Court denied the state’s request to stay the ruling and also dismissed the state’s appeal as premature because Piazza had not issued a final order in the case. The Supreme Court noted, however, that Piazza’s ruling didn’t include a reference to a statute that prohibits a clerk from issuing a same-sex marriage. It only referenced the broader statute that made same-sex marriage illegal in Arkansas.
The omission — which plaintiffs believe was an oversight — has been a ground since Monday for most counties in the state to ignore the Piazza ruling and continue to deny licenses to same-sex couples. Only six counties — Pulaski, Washington, Lonoke, White, Saline and Conway counties — were named defendants. Apart from a brief period in Saline County, only Pulaski and Washington have issued licenses this week. Carroll County issued 15 Saturday. Marion County issued one on Monday. More than 400 have been issued this week, with the biggest crush on Monday.
The Supreme Court ruling yesterday prompted Pulaski and Washington counties to stop issuing same-sex licenses. Pulaski Clerk Larry Crane said he was prepared to resume if Piazza modified his order to include the statute that wasn’t mentioned. Plaintiffs had asked in their pleadings that that statute also be enjoined from enforcement.
The request asks for the judge to declare all potential contradictory laws unconstitutional and to amend his ruling back to the date of original order, which would clarify the status of marriage licenses issued since then. The request said this order would be “(confirming that a trial court has the inherent power to make “his earlier
order say clearly what he intended it to say when he made it”).
It’s unclear when Piazza will act. It’s possible that he was at work already on a response to the Supreme Court ruling yesterday, which sent action back to his court.
If he rules broadly enough, such as by enjoining the state from enforcing its statutes, it conceivably could broaden the impact beyond the six defendant counties.
Piazza is expected to clarify his order in favor of marriage equality, given the original ruling. Attorney General Dustin McDaniel can then be expected to again file an appeal to the Supreme Court and again ask for a stay of the ruling.