Arkansas Defends Gay Marriage Ban as Hearing Nears
LITTLE ROCK - Opponents and supporters of Arkansas' ban on gay marriage are sparring in court filings over whether the state's constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage serves a legitimate purpose and can be challenged at the state level.
Attorneys for the state and a group of same-sex couples filed competing arguments in Pulaski County court on Wednesday seeking summary judgment over the challenge to a constitutional amendment voters approved in 2004 defining marriage as between a man and a woman.
A hearing is scheduled for April 17 on the motions.
The couples sued the state in July, two weeks after the U.S Supreme Court issued two rulings supporting same-sex couples. Justices cleared the way on June 26 for gay marriages to resume in California and struck down a federal law denying benefits to married gay couples. Justices, however, did not rule on the constitutionality of same-sex marriage bans.
The couples are also asking that the judge strike down a law banning gay marriage and prohibiting Arkansas from recognizing same-sex marriages from other states.
"Arkansas' marriage bans and anti-recognition laws do not continue any existing tradition in Arkansas other than discrimination against same-sex couples," the filing by the couples' attorneys said.
The state, however, argued that the ban can't be challenged in state court since it's part of Arkansas' constitution. Opponents of the ban have argued that the 2004 amendment violates equal protections guaranteed in the state constitution.
"Where there is an inconsistency between an earlier provision of the Arkansas Constitution and a later amendment, the amendment, being the more recent expression of the will of the people, prevails. The citizens of Arkansas retained the authority to amend their constitution, and they exercised that authority by enacting Amendment 83," attorneys for the state said in Wednesday's filing. "The state has demonstrated that Amendment 83 cannot violate the Arkansas constitution as a matter of law."
A group of same-sex couples have challenged Arkansas' ban on similar grounds in federal court. Six federal judges in other states have issued pro-gay-marriage rulings since last summer's Supreme Court rulings.