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Marriage equality challenge filed in Arkansas state court

Marriage equality Marriage Equality Trials

By Jacob CombsArkansas state seal

Yesterday, a group of 11 same-sex couples filed suit in an Arkansas state court seeking to overturn the state’s ban on marriage equality, the AP reports.  The suit, filed in Pulaski County Circuit Court, challenges a 2004 constitutional amendment that restricts marriage to opposite-sex couples and prohibits Arkansas from recognizing out-of-state marriage licenses for same-sex couples.  From the suit’s initial complaint:

Gays and lesbians are a distinct group, singled out due to their sexual orientation to be denied rights enjoyed by all other adult groups.

They are unequal in the eyes of the state of Arkansas and their families are denied the same respect as officially sanctioned families of opposite-sex individuals.

Four of the couples in the suit were married in Iowa, a state with marriage equality.  Several others sought and were denied marriage licenses in Arkansas.  The suit alleges that Arkansas’s marriage equality ban violates the due process and equal protection guarantees of both the Arkansas Constitution and the U.S. Constitution.  It also argues that the state’s refusal to recognize out-of-state marriage licenses of same-sex couples violates the U.S. Constitution’s Full Faith and Credit Clause.

Cheryl Maples, the plaintiffs’ attorney, told the AP she believed a state court challenge could succeed based on the argument that the marriage equality ban violates the Arkansas Constitution’s guarantee of equal rights.  Jerry Cox, president of the Family Council, which supported the 2004 amendment, disputed that claim, telling the AP the challenge would fail since the ban is written directly into the state constitution.

As we noted on Monday, Arkansans for Equality, a pro-mariage equality group, is pushing to repeal the 2004 amendment.  The group submitted ballot language to the state attorney general last week; if the language is approved, Arkansas for Equality would need to collect 78,133 signatures to place the measure on the 2014 ballot.  A subsequent ballot measure would be needed to approve equal marriage rights.

You can read the full legal complaint here.

In other marriage equality news, the New Mexico Supreme Court has instructed the state attorney general and the Santa Fe County Clerk to submit legal arguments by July 22 in a case by a Santa Fe same-sex couple seeking to obtain a marriage license.  New Mexico has no laws either allowing or prohibiting marriage equality.  Last month, New Mexico Attorney General Gary King issued a non-binding legal analysis saying that marriage equality is not currently permitted by New Mexico law, but expressing a belief that such a policy may violate the state constitution’s equal protection guarantees.

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