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Plaintiffs Argue Against Delaying Challenges To Arkansas’ Gay Marriage Ban

LITTLE ROCK — Lawyers for same-sex couples who challenged Arkansas’ ban on gay marriage in federal and state court argued Wednesday against putting a hold on the challenges in Arkansas until the U.S. Supreme Court hears a similar challenge in Utah.

Attorneys with Attorney General Dustin McDaniel’s office had argued in federal and state court filings last week that a federal judge and the Arkansas Supreme Court should stay proceedings in Arkansas because a judge’s ruling striking down Utah’s same-sex marriage ban is being appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. They argued that only the U.S. Supreme Court can decide the matter in a way that is binding on all states.

The filing of an appeal in the Utah case is no reason to stay proceedings in Arkansas, attorneys for the Arkansas same-sex couples argued Wednesday.

The plaintiffs’ attorneys noted that the U.S. Supreme Court has not yet said whether it will consider the Utah appeal and that the nation’s top court has said that staying one case pending the outcome of another is permissible only in rare circumstances.

“Defendants’ motion is simply an attempt to prolong the state’s ongoing deprivation of plaintiffs’ constitutional rights,” the plaintiffs’ attorneys argued in a filing in U.S. District Court in Little Rock.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza ruled May 9 that Arkansas’ same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional. The Arkansas Supreme Court stayed that ruling a week later, but in the meantime more than 500 gay couples obtained marriage licenses in the state. The attorney general’s office is appealing Piazza’ ruling to the state Supreme Court.

U.S. District Judge Kristin Baker has ruled on the ban in the federal case.