Marriage Equality USA

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State of Arkansas
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Current Status


HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE

  • In 1997, the Arkansas General Assembly passed a ban on same-sex marriage and recognition of same-sex marriages performed out of state. The bill was signed into law by Governor Mike Huckabee.
  • In November 2004, Arkansas voters approved Constitutional Amendment 3, a state initiated constitutional amendment that prohibited the recognition of same-sex marriage, as well as anything "identical or substantially similar to marital status" in the state of Arkansas.
  • Marriage equality was legal in Arkansas for a week, 9 May 2014 until 16 May 2014, as the result of Sixth Judicial Circuit Judge Chris Piazza's ruling declaring the state ban unconstitutional. During that week, approximately 450 same-sex couples received marriage licenses.
  • Arkansas was the first former Confederate state to legalize same-sex marriage.
  • Arkansas was also the first state in the Bible Belt to legalize same-sex marriage.
  • The Arkansas constitutional ban on same-sex marriages and civil unions was active from 2004 until 2015, per Constitutional Amendment 3. 
  • On 9 May 2014, the ban was ruled unconstitutional by County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza in the marriage case Wright et al. v. Arkansas.
  • On 25 November 2014, U.S. District Judge Kristine G. Baker ruled that the Arkansas marriage ban violated the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the United States Constitution, in the marriage case Jernigan v. Crane (see under LAWSUITS-PENDING below).
  • 19 September 2014, the Respect for Marriage Coalition, of which Marriage Equality USA is a member, sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Holder urging the federal government to recognize the same-sex marriages previously performed in Arkansas, Indiana and Wisconsin. 
  • 25 November 2014, U.S. District Judge Kristine G. Baker ruled that the Arkansas marriage ban violated the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the United States Constitution. See Jernigan v. Crane under LAWSUITS-PENDING below. The ruling was stayed until final resolution of the appeal to the 8th Circuit. UPDATE: 29 April 2015, the Court, of its own accord, put the 8th Circuit oral arguments and all further proceedings on hold until SCOTUS ruled in the marriage cases. That pro-marriage equality ruling was issued by the U.S. Supreme Court on 26 June 2015.

Legislation - Pending

None.

Legislation - Enacted

SB 975 - Religious Freedom Restoration Act

Author/Sponsor: Senator J. Hutchinson
Date Enacted: 3 April 2015

Description:

  • Another so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
  • Gov't Summary: Amends Arkansas law concerning the free exercise of religion; enacts the religious freedom restoration act; declares an emergency.
  • 3 April 2015, signed into law by the governor.
SB202 - AN ACT TO AMEND THE LAW CONCERNING ORDINANCES OF 10 CITIES AND COUNTIES BY CREATING THE INTRASTATE 11 COMMERCE IMPROVEMENT ACT; TO DECLARE AN EMERGENCY; 12 AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.

Author/Sponsor:Senator Hester and Representative Ballinger
Date Introduced: 2 February 2015
Date Enacted: 24 February 2015

Description:

A non-binding resolution opposing marriage equality

Author/Sponsor: Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Bigelow)
Date Introduced: 16 May 2014
Date Enacted: Non-binding (vote was blocked on 16 May 2014)

Description:

  • Expresses support for Amendment 83, the 2004 state amendment that defines marriage as being between a man and a woman.
  • Also asks the state Supreme Court to invalidate several hundred gay marriages issued after Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza ruled the state's bans unconstitutional in May 2014 and calls his decision "an abuse of his judicial authority."
  •  Rapert's resolution, which was also signed by 58 other legislators, passed by a voice vote after about a half hour of discussion.
  • Before the vote, Sen. David Johnson, D-Little Rock, said the resolution is "incorrect and false" and Rep. John Walker, D-Little Rock, called it a civil and human rights issue as he spoke against it.

Lawsuits - Pending

Jernigan v. Crane (Rita & Pam Jernigan et al. v. Crane et al.)

Case Number: 15-1022 (8th Circuit); 4:13−cv−00410−KGB (Federal District Court)
Court Level: 8th Circuit Court of Appeals - On Hold
Date Filed: 15 July 2013
Date of Appeal: December 2014

Description:

Smith v. Wright

Case #: CV-14-427
Court Level: AR Supreme Court
Date Filed: 3 July 2013
Date of Appeal:

Description:

  • A group of Arkansas county clerks filed their own petition for a stay in Wright et al. v. Arkansas (below), claiming that while Judge Piazza's ruling in that case overturned the state's constitutional ban on marriage equality, it did not address the state's statutory ban, therefore causing confusion and uncertainty.
  • So, this is very confusing. The original state case is named Wright et al. v. Arkansas (see immediately below), but when the state appealed to the Arkansas Supreme Court it caused the name to switch. Smith, the Interim Director of the Arkansas Dept. of Health, is listed first in the case. Updates are being listed under Wright et al. v. Arkansas (immediately below). 
  • 15 September 2014, of interest is this amicus brief filed by Bishop Anthony B. Taylor, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Little Rock, AR. From the brief: "The Diocese has a strong interest in protecting the traditional institution of husband-wife marriage because of the religious beliefs of its members and this institution's benefit to children, families, and society." 

AR_plaintiffs_and_attorney.jpgMany of the Arkansas plaintiffs with their lead attorney Cheryl Maple

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wright et al. v. Arkansas (Kendall Wright et al. v. AR Governor Michael Beebe, et al.) 

NOTE: Included below are updates for Smith v. Wright (immediately above).

Case Number: 60CV-2013-2662
Court Level: Arkansas Supreme Court
Date: 2 July 2013
Appeal: 14 May 2014

Description:

  • This was the first state marriage case filed following the Windsor ruling on 26 June 2013.
  • The case's lead attorney is Cheryl Maples who represents 44 plaintiffs, the largest number on record to date.
  • Both defendants’ motion to dismiss and plaintiffs’ motion for preliminary injunction were denied. The State then filed an answer to plaintiffs’ 3rd amended complaint.
  • 26 February 2014, cross-motions for summary judgment were filed.
  • 19 March 2014, cross motions for summary judgement were responded to.
  • 2 April 2014, cross motions for summary judgement were replied to.
  • 17 April 2014, hearing was held.
  • 9 May 2014 Judge Piazza ruled that the Arkansas ban on same-sex marriages is unconstitutional.
  • 14 May 2014, the state filed a petition for an emergency stay of Judge Piazza’s ruling.
  • 16 May 2014, the stay was granted.
  • 3 July 2014, a group of Arkansas county clerks filed their own petition for a stay with the AR Supreme Court. They claimed that while Judge Piazza's ruling in that case overturned the state's constitutional ban on marriage equality, it did not address the state's statutory ban, therefore causing confusion and uncertainty. This case is Smith v. Wright (see immediately above). Smith is the Interim Director of the Arkansas Dept. of Health.
  • 30 July 2014, the Arkansas Supreme Court set 8 September 2014 as the deadline for the state's first brief in its appeal of the lower court's ruling overturning state's marriage ban.
  • 10 September 2014, Supreme Court Justice Cliff Hoofman filed a recusal from considering the appeal of Judge Chris Piazza's decision striking down the state's constitutional and statutory ban on same-sex marriage. No explanation was given.
  • 6 August 2014, the defendants filed a motion to stay this case. 
  • 13 August 2014, the plaintiffs filed their opposition to a stay.
  • 9 October 2014, The AR Supreme Court refused to delay proceedings.
  • 23 October 2014, the AR Supreme Court oral arguments were set for 20 November 2014 at 9:00am CT.
  • 20 November 2014, oral argument at the Arkansas Supreme Court was live broadcast - the video is now archived here, listed as CV-14-427 Nathaniel Smith, MD, MPH et al. v. M. Kendall Wright et al., from Pulaski County Circuit Court, Second Division.
  • 23 January 2015, the Arkansas Attorney General asked for new oral arguments before the Arkansas Supreme Court because there are new justices on the court who did not hear the arguments held on 20 November 2014.

Lawsuits - Resolved

Frazier-Henson v. Walther

Case #: 60CV-15-569
Court Level: County Circuit Court
Date Filed: 13 February 2015
Date of Ruling: 9 June 2015

Description:

  • 13 February 2015, complaint filed in Pulaski County, Arkansas, Civil Division, seeking recognition of the marriages that took place in Arkansas May 2014 before the stay.
  • The plaintiff is Allen W. Cox, a widow seeking death and survivor benefits through Social Security. He and his now deceased husband, Steven Hall Thomas, were married in Arkansas during the window. The defendant is Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, in her official capacity.
  • From the complaint: "Plaintiffs’ marriages and their rights, privileges, protections and recognition are protected by Arkansas law, the Arkansas Constitution and the 14th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States and are valid marriages regardless of the outcome of Wright or the pending federal case of Jernigan v. Crane [see immediately below] currently pending appeal in the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals." The complaint seeks relief for couples "including Plaintiffs, who were legally married in Arkansas in May 2014 and whose marriages were valid at the time they were entered into."
  • 2 March 2015, an Amended Complaint was filed.
  • 29 May 2015, three of the five defendants were successful in getting the complaint against them dismissed, the case will go forward with the two remaining defendants.
  • 9 June 2015, Judge rules: ""Plaintiffs' prayer for injunctive relief is HEREBY GRANTED in all respects." Plaintiffs win!
  • 9 June 2015, Judge: Arkansas Must Recognize in-State Same-Sex Marriages - By Andrew DeMillo, AP via ABC News
John Moix v. Libby Moix

Case Number: CV-13-76
Date Filed: 7 November 2013
Date of Ruling: 21 November 2013

Description:

  • The AR Supreme Court considered reversing a county judge’s restriction barring John Moix, represented by ACLU Arkansas, from letting his gay partner stay overnight when John’s son is visiting.
  • 21 November, 2013, the AR Supreme Court ruled in favor of John Moix, and halted the statewide policy of always banning child visitation with any parent who lives with an unmarried partner, regardless of individual circumstances.

Ballot Initiatives - Pending

Repeal of the Arkansas Marriage Amendment

Ballot Measure: To repeal the 2004 state ban on same-gender civil marriage.
Type: Constitutional Amendment proposed by Arkansans for Equality
Date Filed: 27 June 2013

Summary:

  • AFE proposed a constitutional amendment to only repeal the 2004 ban on same-gender civil marriage.
  • On 13 August 2013, the AR attorney general approved the wording of the AFE proposal. 
The Arkansas Marriage Amendment

Ballot Measure: To repeal the existing ban on same-gender civil marriage and also to legalize such unions.
Type: Citizens’ initiative proposed by Arkansas Initiative for Marriage Equality
Date Filed: 7 November 2013

Summary:

  • On 7 November 2013, AR Attorney General Dustin McDaniel approved the AIME ballot measure to repeal the existing ban on same-gender civil marriage and also to legalize such unions.
  • On 18 January 2014, AIME began petitioning to repeal the 2004 constitutional ban against same-gender civil marriage, via the 2016 ballot. Valid signatures are needed from at least 10% of all 2014 voters and 5% of the voters in 15 counties.

 

Arkansas Ballot Initiative #3 (Name TBD)

Ballot Measure: To repeal ban on same-gender marriage as well as to legalize same-gender unions.
Type: Constitutional amendment proposed by Arkansas Initiative for Marriage Equality
Date Filed: 10 July 2013 

Ballot Initiatives - Passed

None.

Polls

  • 1 May 2014, a Public Policy poll showed support for same-sex marriage among the general population at 27%, while voters under 30 actually support it 53/32. Poll Details
  • In a statewide poll of 520 likely Arkansas voters conducted on 19 January 2014, when asked "Which of the following policy positions most closely resembles your own view regarding relationships between two people of the same sex?," 21.5% responded that gay couples should be allowed to legally marry; 24% responded that gay couples should be allowed to form civil unions or domestic partnerships, but not legally marry; 50% responded that there should be no legal recognition of a gay couple’s relationship; and, 4.5% responded that they don’t know. Poll details.
  • 24 October 2013, a poll run by the University of Arkansas showed that minds are changing. When it comes to the statement “There should be no legal recognition of a gay couple’s relationship,” only 46% of Arkansans agreed, the first time the response dipped below 50%. University Newswire