Nov. 20, a federal judge and the Arkansas Supreme Court heard separate arguments on whether the Arkansas ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.
On Nov. 25, federal Judge Kristine Baker struck down the ban, but stayed her ruling pending a state appeal to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Almost six weeks after their own oral arguments, the Arkansas Supreme Court has yet to be heard from on the separate state court challenge.
The Court is on its Christmas break. But state employees will be at work this week, except for New Year’s Day. An opinion by the court could be issued at any time.
The approach of the end of the year is important for many reasons. Should the Supreme Court uphold Circuit Judge Chris Piazza’s ruling, it would clarify the marital status of about 500 couples who married in the week following his ruling but before the Supreme Court stayed it for the appeal. It also could allow untold other couples to marry in Arkansas before the end of 2014 and thus potentially qualify for tax and other benefits that accrue to legally married couples.
Also important as to timing: Justice Donald Corbin retires effective Jan. 1. Robin Wynne replaces him that day. If no decision is reached before Jan. 1, Wynne will cast a vote in the case rather than Corbin. Nobody has yet said how that process would work and how much time would be added before an eventual decision.
Why the delay? Theories abound, mostly related to internal friction on the court. Officially, there is no word.
Will a decision come this week?
The old saying about justice delayed seems to apply.