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A.G.’s Office Seeks Stay In Federal Challenge To Same-Sex Marriage Ban

LITTLE ROCK — Attorney General Dustin McDaniel’s office has asked a federal judge to put on hold a challenge to Arkansas’ same-sex marriage ban until the U.S. Supreme Court rules in a similar case in Utah.

The attorney general’s office filed a motion Wednesday asking U.S. District Court Kristine Baker to stay proceedings in a lawsuit by two same-sex couples alleging that Arkansas’ same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional.

A separate lawsuit in Pulaski County Circuit Court resulted in a May ruling that the ban is unconstitutional, but that ruling has been stayed while the case is on appeal.

In its motion Wednesday in the federal case, the attorney general’s office noted that the state of Utah has filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court in a successful challenge to its same-sex marriage ban, which according to the motion is “substantively identical” to Arkansas’ constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

“Only the United States Supreme Court can decide the constitutionality of state marriage laws under the federal Constitution in a way that commands the respect, allegiance, and compliance of all states — and until the United States Supreme Court provides that decision, any lower court ruling, including a ruling by this court in this case, is subject to reversal,” Assistant Attorney General Nga Mahfouz argued in the motion.

Jack Wagoner, attorney for the plaintiffs, said Wednesday, “We’re looking at (the motion) and trying to figure out where we’re going to go from here, but I don’t think that in general it’s a basis to halt litigation throughout the country because there’s a case out there that may get decided by the Supreme Court in a year or two.”

Wagoner said his clients want a ruling that will clear the way for same-sex marriages in Arkansas.

“Their constitutional rights are being violated as we sit here,” he said.

More than 500 same-sex couples obtained marriage licenses in Arkansas after Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza ruled May 9 that Arkansas’ marriage amendment and all related laws were unconstitutional. The issuing of same-sex marriage licenses was halted a week later when the state Supreme Court stayed Piazza’s ruling.

The attorney general’s office is appealing Piazza’s ruling to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis.

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