LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The Arkansas Supreme Court rejected the state attorney general's request Wednesday for a stay of a judge's ruling that overturned Arkansas' constitutional ban on gay marriage.
The high court turned down the request from Attorney General Dustin McDaniel that would have halted the issuance of same-sex marriage licenses.
Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza had ruled last week that a voter-approved gay marriage ban was unconstitutional but didn't issue a stay. A few counties began issuing marriage licenses, and by midweek about 450 couples had gotten them.
The vast majority of the state's counties refused to grant licenses, saying the Supreme Court needed to weigh in. McDaniel said a stay was necessary because clerks did not know whether they were obligated to issue licenses.
Responding to a request filed by lawyers for gay couples seeking the dismissal of his appeal, the attorney general Piazza's ruling striking down the 2004 constitutional amendment approved by voters and a similar 1997 state law. Piazza ruled Friday that the prohibition violates the U.S. and Arkansas constitution.
About 400 marriage licenses have been issued to same-sex couples since Piazza's ruling. Only Pulaski and Washington, two of the state's most populous counties, were still issuing licenses to gay couples, and clerks in both locations said they would do so until a Supreme Court order told them otherwise.
"Confusion is pervasive, and this court should exercise its superintending authority over circuit courts to issue a stay," Assistant Attorney General Colin Jorgensen had written in the brief.
Attorneys for the couples who sought to overturn the ban told the court that McDaniel's appeal was premature since Piazza had not issued a final order. The AG told the court in Wednesday's filing that it wouldn't object to the court dismissing his appeal on those grounds if justices granted a stay.