Speaking of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s matter-of-fact tip of the hat to a same-sex Navy couple:
For one glorious week in 2014 (as illustrated in our cover story), same-sex couples enjoyed marriage equality under Arkansas law thanks to Circuit Judge Chris Piazza. A dithering Arkansas Supreme Court (perhaps thanks to some conniving by certain justices) hasn’t yet settled the matter under state law, though a federal judge has struck down the ban.
But I realized this morning that — though Arkansas is only one of 14 states where marriage equality doesn’t yet prevail — Arkansas, too, is moving with the advancing tide.
I went to a party last night at the Pleasant Valley Country Club. It honored a newlywed couple, both men. They were married in New York, where they work and where justice prevails. They were welcomed home by a happy crowd that couldn’t have been more mainstream — doctors, lawyers, bankers, teachers, mostly “traditional” couples. I don’t think many in the crowd gave much of a thought to sexual politics. I saw people happy to see a handsome couple with successful professional lives pay a visit to old friends and family in Little Rock. Jason Rapert and Co. could perhaps frown at this tableau. I could not.
The Arkansas Supreme Court willing, perhaps this scene will become the permanent new normal for Arkansas, with vows said in Arkansas churches, licenses registered at Arkansas courthouses and — at last — mention of such nuptials permitted in the state’s largest newspaper.
And what of the Supreme Court? It appears the day will end without a decision in the appeal of Piazza’s ruling. That means Robin Wynne tomorrow will succeed the retiring Justice Donald Corbin as a voter on the case. Rhonda Wood will take the seat of another justice leaving the court, Cliff Hoofman, who recused after an ex parte discussion with Sen. Jason Rapert, a same-sex marriage foe. Until now, the standard line has been that it is custom for an appointed special justice — Robert McCorkindale in this case — to stay on the case until its conclusion. But I think four votes of the seven-member court could change custom. If that happens — and it produces an outcome different than would have occurred under the panel that originally heard the case on an expedited basis — it will produce an even stronger odor than already attaches to the handling of this case by at least certain members of the Supreme Court.
The good news is in the national evidence that Martin Luther King’s famous saying applies to this modern-day civil rights issue: The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice. Even in Arkansas.