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Nevada County Picayune-Times - Prescott, AR
  • County clerks say 'no' to gay couples

  • County clerks across Southwest Arkansas were not only upset by the timing, but united in their reaction to the late-hour ruling May 9 by a Little Rock judge that sent dozens of gay couples to courthouses in Arkansas seeking marriage licenses Saturday morning.
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  • County clerks across Southwest Arkansas were not only upset by the timing, but united in their reaction to the late-hour ruling May 9 by a Little Rock judge that sent dozens of gay couples to courthouses in Arkansas seeking marriage licenses Saturday morning.
    The officies of county clerks across Arkansas observed special hours Saturday to accommodate early voting in the May 20 preferential party primary election; but, were not prepared to be inundated by gay couples seeking marriage licenses after Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza ruled shortly before 5 p.m. Friday that Arkansas Amendment 83 defining marriage exclusively between a man and a woman was unconstitutional.
    He ruled at 4:58 on Friday, knowing that the county clerks would be open on Saturday,” an upset Hempstead County Clerk Sandra Rodgers said Monday. “We had a conference call of county clerks on Saturday; and, we are not selling same sex marriage licenses here.”
    Rodgers said she had one gay couple appear at her office Saturday seeking a marriage license and she turned them away.
    I have had several inquiries today, too,” she said.
    Rodgers said she sought the guidance of Eighth Judicial District-North Prosecuting Attorney Christi McQueen in responding to the situation. McQueen said Monday that the ruling by Piazza has no impact outside of his judicial district.
    As it stands now, Arkansas law bans marriage between same-sex couples,” McQueen said in a statement Monday. “A Pulaski County circuit judge made a ruling that conflicts with this state law. His interpretation of the law is not binding precedent in the Eighth North Judicial District because Hempstead and Nevada counties were not parties to the lawsuit.”
    McQueen said only the Arkansas Supreme Court can issue a statewide mandate.
    The law banning same-sex marriages stands in Hempstead and Nevada counties until a judge with jurisdiction down here, or the Arkansas Supreme Court, strikes it down,” she said.
    County clerks in Nevada, Lafayette, Miller, Howard, Little River and Sevier counties all said Monday they will refuse to issue marriage licenses to gay couples.
    Page 2 of 2 - Within the seven counties in Southwest Arkansas alone there have been about 100 inquiries or personal applications for marriage licenses by gay couples since Friday.
    Miller County Clerk Ann Nicholas said she received as many as 50 telephone calls and 10-15 e-mails on Monday morning. She said one couple applied in person and was turned away.
    Acting on advice of counsel, the county clerk's office of Miller County will not issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples,” Nicholas said in a statement issued Monday. “Act 146 of 1997 (ACA 9-11-208) was not struck down by Circuit Judge Chris Piazza and is still in force. The office of the clerk is a functional office, and at this point, the laws of Arkansas give no discretion for the issuance of licenses to marry to same-sex couples.”
    She said the 1977 statute and Amendment 83 which were involved in the lawsuit were the only laws affected, but only within the six counties named in the lawsuit.
    Miller County is bound by that part of the law that Judge Piazza left in place,” Nicholas said.
    Nicholas and at least two other clerks also noted that computer software used to generate the applications for marriage licenses did not provide for same-sex applications.
    Piazza relied heavily upon a 1967 U. S. Supreme Court ruling which voided a Virginia constitutional amendment that prohibited mixed race marriages. He argued in his ruling that, over time, society will accept gay marriage in the same manner it has accepted interracial marriage.
    The U. S. high court ruled last year that a federal statute recognizing marriage as exclusively between a man and woman was unconstitutional, and federal judges in eight states have ruled against similar marriage exclusions.

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