A Pulaski County judge’s ruling last Friday allowing same sex marriages is causing some confusion among Arkansas counties, as some choose to recognize the ruling and other county officials say it does not apply to them.
Eighty-four same sex couples received marriage licenses Monday from Washington County, but other counties such as Benton and Sebastian counties are not issuing same sex marriage licenses because their officials said the Pulaski County ruling may not have jurisdiction in their own counties.
State Attorney General Dustin McDaniel on Monday asked the Arkansas Supreme Court to issue a stay on same sex marriage licenses while the issue is cleared up, causing some confusion across the state. The judge’s ruling reversed a 2004 statute prohibiting same sex marriage in Arkansas.
“Most of the time when a judge makes a ruling of this sort, they do it and they go ahead and put a self-imposed stay on it so both sides can be heard, and I think that’s what America’s about. That’s what Arkansas is about,” said state Sen. Bart Hester (R-Cave Springs). “We have a judicial system to work things out like this where both sides can be fairly heard.”
Hester said he believes the judge’s ruling late Friday, just before the weekend, was not in the best interest of the people.
He said allowing marriage licenses before the state Supreme Court weighs in could put county officials and same sex couples in compromising positions. If the Supreme Court issues a stay on the judge’s ruling, Hester said no one knows what will happen with the marriage licenses that have already been handed out.
“Once the Supreme Court makes their ruling, it’s going to be very difficult for all parties involved,” Hester said. “The U.S. Constitution said that’s for each state to decide, and we as a state have decided.”
Pastor Tom Hatley said he is not supportive of the recent ruling.
“That was a way of getting around the law, and people without integrity have to go around the law because they can’t go through the law,” the pastor said. “We don’t hate anybody. Everybody’s welcome here. We don’t hate them. We don’t even get to set the rules.”
Hatley said although his church Immanuel Baptist does not turn anyone away, church officials views on the issue are not likely to change.
“It’s a very important and foundational truth to society, but especially to those who believe in the Bible,” he said.