Arkansas' appeal over gay marriage ban at risk after $505 docketing fee goes unpaid

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LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas — A federal appeals court on Monday threatened to dismiss Arkansas' attempt to restore a gay marriage ban after state lawyers failed to pay a $505 docketing fee that came due as the state changed attorneys general.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis gave Arkansas two weeks to demonstrate why its appeal shouldn't be dropped.

The appeals court notified the state Jan. 7 that the money was due last Wednesday. Attorney General Leslie Rutledge replaced Dustin McDaniel on Jan. 13. Her office blamed clerical errors made before she took over and said that the appeal would proceed.

"It's not in jeopardy," Rutledge spokesman Judd Deere said. "The fee will be paid."

McDaniel said Monday evening that he was not aware the state had missed the payment. He said the docketing fee wasn't among topics he and Rutledge discussed during the transition. He said that fee payments would have been a routine task handled by other attorneys in the office.

U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker struck down a voter-approved same-sex marriage ban and a similar state law in November but put her decision on hold pending the appeal. Another similar case is pending in the state Supreme Court.

The U.S. Supreme Court announced this month it would hear arguments on whether same-sex couples have the right to marry in every state. The cases will be argued in April and a decision is expected by late June.

Jack Wagoner, an attorney representing same-sex couples, said that the state's appeal is a waste of taxpayers' money — but that he would take any form of victory.

"A win is a win," Wagoner said. "I don't care if it's on technicality or in a close opinion or whatever."

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