LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas — Arkansas officials asked a federal judge Wednesday to keep the state's marriage ban in place, arguing the prohibition is constitutional and serves a legitimate purpose.
Attorney General Dustin McDaniel's office asked U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker to reject the motion for summary judgment filed by two same-sex couples challenging the ban. The couples earlier this month asked Baker to rule immediately and find a 2004 constitutional amendment and any related laws barring gay marriage unconstitutional. The couples sued the state over the ban last year.
In the filing, McDaniel's office said the summary judgment request was premature because Baker hasn't ruled on the state's motion to dismiss the lawsuit. He also defended the constitutionality of the ban.
"Amendment 83 and Arkansas Act 144 of 1997 are rationally related to numerous conceivable rational bases, and are there constitutional," the filing said. "Plaintiffs' summary judgment motion should be denied."
The couples argued earlier this month that Arkansas' ban doesn't serve any purpose other than discriminating against same-sex couples. The lawsuit also seeks to require Arkansas to recognize same-sex marriages from other states.
The immediate ruling is being sought as Arkansas' highest court is also considering the constitutionality of the ban. Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza struck down the ban earlier this year, which led to 541 gay couples receiving marriage licenses before Piazza's ruling was suspended by the state Supreme Court.
McDaniel, a Democrat serving his last year in office, has said he personally supports gay marriage but will continue defending Arkansas' ban in court. The state Supreme Court on Wednesday set a Sept. 8 deadline for the state to file its brief in that case.
Gay marriage is legal in 19 states and the District of Columbia. Bans that have been overturned in some other states continue to make their way through the courts.
Arkansas voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2004 that defined marriage as between a man and a woman.
Follow Andrew DeMillo on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ademillo