In unsigned orders today, the Arkansas Supreme Court said it would not hear another round of oral arguments in the appeal of Judge Chris Piazza’s decision invalidating the state bans on same-sex marriage.
Attorney General Leslie Rutledge had asked for a new round of arguments. That was denied without comment in an unsigned “per curiam” order.
The court also denied a request by plaintiffs for an immediate lifting of the stay issued by the Supreme Court to prevent marriages of same-sex couples. That stay was issued after a week in which about 500 couples were married in Arkansas after Piazza’s ruling in May 2015.
The orders today gave no indication when the Supreme Court might rule on the case. It only recently decided a case cooked up by four members of the court to decide which justices should hear the case. The result was that new justices Rhonda Wood and Robin Wynne will decide the case. Justices Donald Corbin, now retired, and Special Justice Robert McCorkindale, heard the case when it was completed by oral arguments last November. But the court didn’t issue a decision before Wood and Wynne took office Jan. 1. Chief Justiice Jim Hannah and Justice Paul Danielson recused from hearing the derivative case because they said it was an excuse to delay a decision.
It appears like the Arkansas Supreme Court won’t rule before the U.S. Supreme Court rules on same-sex marriage cases sometime in June. The Arkansas Supreme Court can’t avoid a ruling, however. Plaintiffs say the Arkansas Constitution’s declaration of rights section — used in landmark rulings that invalidated criminal sodomy laws and bans on adoptions and foster parenting by gay people — should invalidate same-sex marriage bans in a voter-approved amendment and statutes.
The orders issued Thursday presumbaly mean the new justices can make a ruling based on the briefs and by reviewing the video of the oral arguments when they were held last November.
Rutledge’s motion for new arguments included an argument in favor of Wood and Wynne deciding the case and was widely viewed as being more about giving justices a platform to decide that question rather than a pressing need for further arguments. Rutledge has continued to use the same principle attorneys to defend the state’s ban and their arguments have undergone no changes since she succeeded Dustin McDaniel in the office.