Arkansas AG opposes couples' motion to lift stay in judge's ruling against gay marriage ban

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LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas — The Arkansas attorney general's office on Monday asked a federal judge who struck down the state's gay marriage ban as unconstitutional to not allow same-sex couples to wed while the ruling is being appealed.

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge's office asked U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker to not lift the stay on her November decision striking down a 2004 voter-approved constitutional amendment and earlier state law defining marriage as between a man and a woman. Baker suspended her decision while the state appealed, but the couples challenging the ban have asked her to lift the stay. Baker gave the state until Monday to respond to the motion for lifting the stay.

The state argued that it's too late for the stay to be lifted since the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has already scheduled oral arguments in May for Arkansas and similar cases regarding gay marriage bans in Missouri and South Dakota.

"The significance of the legal issues involved, as recognized by the Eighth Circuit's scheduling orders thus far, favors a continuation of the stay," Assistant Attorney General Nga Mahfouz said in the filing.

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.

Lawyers for the couples challenging the ban have argued their clients suffer "irreparable harm" each day the stay remains in place, noting they're unable to file joint tax returns or be on their spouse's insurance plans.

Baker is one of two judges who have struck down Arkansas' gay marriage ban as unconstitutional. The state Supreme Court is considering the state's appeal of a Pulaski County judge's decision last May that the ban violated the U.S. and state constitutions. More than 500 gay couples were married after Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza's decision before the state Supreme Court stayed the decision.

The couples in that case have also asked justices to lift the stay of Piazza's ruling.


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