LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas — Lawyers for gay couples challenging Arkansas' voter-approved same-sex marriage ban told a federal judge Wednesday she should allow such nuptials to resume in the state.
Citing recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions not to delay similar cases from other states, the Arkansas lawyers told Judge Kristine Baker that couples are suffering continuing harm by not being allowed to marry.
They said that after a ruling against anti-gay-marriage laws last October, "the Supreme Court has since refused to issue stays in cases like this one striking down state bans on same-sex marriage." They cited recent decisions in Alabama, Alaska, Florida, Idaho and South Carolina.
The U.S. Supreme Court is to hear oral arguments over same-sex marriage laws in April. A decision is expected by the end of June.
A spokesman for Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said her office was reviewing the submission by the lawyers for gay couples.
"The State strongly objects to lifting Judge Baker's stay," a spokesman for Rutledge said.
The couples' lawyers asked Baker to give the state only five days to respond and then rule quickly.
Arkansas "would suffer no harm whatsoever" if the couples were allowed to marry or to have marriages conducted elsewhere recognized in the state, the lawyers wrote.
"Plaintiffs respectfully urge this court to ... reconsider the necessity of its stay and promptly order that the stay be vacated," the lawyers wrote.
For a week last May, after a ruling in state court, same-sex marriages were legal in Arkansas and 541 gay couples received licenses. The Arkansas Supreme Court granted a stay and heard oral arguments in November.
The makeup of the court changed Jan. 1. The state has asked for a new round of oral arguments, with new justices present. The couples' lawyer say a special justice appointed to the case last year after another justice recused should remain.
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