The Arkansas Supreme Court apparently won’t rule today in the challenge to the state ban on same-sex marriage. It heard oral arguments Nov. 20 and could rule at any time, but court spokesman Stephanie Harris said not to expect a decision today. Its weekly decisions are customarily released on Thursdays and the case wasn’t among those decided today.
Circuit Judge Chris Piazza struck down the ban as unconstitutional May 9. In the next week, more than 500 same-sex couples received marriage licenses. Then the Supreme Court stayed Piazza’s ruling for the state’s appeal, which was the subject of an oral argument before the court two weeks ago.
The law was struck down last week by federal Judge Kristine Baker, who also stayed her ruling for a possible appeal. The state has not yet announced a decision on an appeal, but the incoming Republican Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has been outspoken against same-sex marriage and it seemed likely the state will pursue a federal appeal. Attorney General Dustin McDaniel has said he’d confer with Rutledge about the state’s appeal, which must be filed in the federal case before he leaves office.
However, the case before the Arkansas Supreme Court, brought by Cheryl Maples on behalf of multiple plaintiffs, argued not only federal constitutional grounds for striking the law down but also the equal protection provision of the Arkansas Constitution. The state argues that the amendment that banned same-sex marriage invalidated the equal rights provision, at least as to gay people’s ability to marry. Should the court strike down the ban on state constitutional grounds, that would be the end of the matter. There’d be no appeal possibility in federal court to a ruling rooted in the state Constitution, legal authorities say.