Cheryl K. Maples, the lawyer who filed the first suit challenging the state ban on same-sex marriage and waged other legal battles for equality for LGBT people, died Thursday. She was 69.
A family member said funeral arrangements are not yet firm, but will be handled by Sisco Funeral Chapel in Springdale with burial in Bluff Cemetery.
Facebook is filling with tributes to her work. She filed suit in state court over the same-sex marriage ban after a federal court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act. Her state case was never resolved by the Arkansas Supreme Court because of internal court politics and bickering. The U.S. Supreme Court settled the question ultimately and the Arkansas Supreme Court declared the issue moot. A separate lawsuit was filed in federal court and resulted in a decision striking down the Arkansas law. Maples became co-counsel with Jack Wagoner on that suit and he on her state court suit. They would eventually disagree bitterly on attorney fee awards in the case, with Maples suing Wagoner last year for defamation for comments he’d made about her contributions to the case. She never completed service on that lawsuit and it languished without action.
Maples was lauded and stood by happily as the first couples married. She also took up related causes left unsettled by the marriage ruling, for example the issue of who might be listed as parents on the birth certificates of children of same-sex couples. Maples campaigned tirelessly for full equality for people with different sexual orientation.
From David Koon’s article when same-sex marriage fully arrived in Arkansas:
Looking on from a nearby wheelchair as Eddy-McCain married a young lesbian couple was Cheryl Maples. On July 1, 2013, less than a month after the Supreme Court’s landmark United States v. Windsor decision struck down parts of the Defense of Marriage Act, Maples filed suit against the state of Arkansas on behalf of a group of LGBT plaintiffs challenging the state ban on same-sex marriage. She would later say that she filed the suit in honor of her lesbian daughter.
Though there were times during the process when the ailing Maples was too weak to stand and address the court, it was her lawsuit that led Piazza to his decision to strike down the state ban on same-sex marriage. Maples and her clients were still waiting for a decision on the appeal of Piazza’s ruling from an almost comically foot-dragging Arkansas Supreme Court when the U.S. Supreme Court ruling came down last week.
Maples looked frail as she sat there in her chair, but also luminously happy. She’s had a long career as an attorney, but the fight for same-sex marriage is the work she’ll be most remembered for, and she knows it. She said Kennedy’s opinion had moved her to tears.
Maples said that she was disappointed but not surprised that the U.S. Supreme Court managed to rule before the Arkansas Supreme Court. She said that while the Arkansas Supreme Court claimed the case is resolved, there are still issues to be addressed, such as whether or not the wildly successful 2004 referendum to make gay marriage illegal did, in fact, alter the due process and equal protection clauses of the state’s bill of rights, as has been claimed.
“The due process and equal protection clauses are supposed to be inalienable,” she said. “That should never be able to happen again. Those inalienable rights include the right to bear arms, freedom of religion, things that people are really concerned about. So this is a dangerous precedent and really needs to be addressed by the Arkansas Supreme Court.”
Maples said she believed it was fear that caused the state’s elected Supreme Court justices to avoid a ruling in the case; specifically, the fear that a ruling in support of same-sex marriage would lead to punishment by the voters on Election Day. It’s stands as proof that the state needs another system for selecting the judiciary, Maples said.
Maples said the next fight would be against LGBT discrimination. Like several people I talked with, she noted that in Arkansas, LGBT people can still be summarily fired from their jobs or kicked out of rental housing based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. She believes the great strides that have been made in only a few years show that full equality can happen.
She’ll be remembered with a place in Arkansas history books.
Survivors, a sister said, are her husband Richard Maples; daughters, Monica Keesee (Randy), Melina Granger and Meredith Moore (Steve); sons, Greg Smith and Darin Monroe; 12 grandchildren; two great-grandchildren; two sisters, Linda Smith and Cindy Starr (David); a brother Harvey Smith (Amy), and dozens of loving nephews & nieces!