Attorney General Leslie Rutledge filed the state’s response Friday to a request from plaintiffs that the Arkansas Supreme Court lift the stay of Judge Chris Piazza’s ruling in the same-sex marriage case.
Piazza invalidated the ban last May and arguments were completed in the case in November, but the Supreme Court has yet to rule. In the meanwhile, numerous federal courts have struck down bans in other states and then lifted stays, which the U.S. Supreme Court has declined to put back in place while it considers a case that should settle issue nationally.
Plaintiffs in the state case argued that their clients suffer irreparable harm by the continuing denial of equal rights. But the state responds:
If Appellees are irreparably harmed by the stay, as they claim in their motion, they could have immediately requested vacation of the Court’s stay decision. They did not; in fact, they waited over nine months to file their motion for the “immediate” lifting of the Court’s stay.
The state notes that a U.S. Supreme Court decision isn’t believed far off. And the Arkansas Supreme Court will presumably decide this case some day itself, though it appears to be delaying, most recently with a request for arguments on who should decide the case given that seats on the Supreme Court changed between the time the case was completed and now. Said the state’s argument:
Additional considerations militate in favor of keeping the stay in place until this Court issues its opinion. If the stay is lifted, marriages could be recognized that are ultimately determined to be inconsistent with Arkansas law, resulting in confusion in the law and in the legal status of marriages. Arkansas law on this issue can only be settled definitively by a ruling from this Court or the U.S. Supreme Court that is certainly binding on all state and local officials in Arkansas.
Plaintiffs in a separate but similar case in federal court have also asked that a stay issued by federal Judge Kristine Baker be lifted. She’s asked for a response from the state by Monday on why she should not. The state’s response in that case is not yet on file.
The federal circumstances differ from the state case. For one, the request for lifting the stay in federal court came only three months after it was issued. Also, when Baker issued the stay she noted that the U.S. Supreme Court had given a stay in another case. The U.S. Supreme Court has since lifted that stay and refused to issue others.