Day Two: Gay Marriage In Washington County

For gay couples, Tuesday (May 13) marks the second day marriage licenses are issued in Washington County. It’s one of seven counties named in a marriage equality lawsuit that overturned a ban on same-sex marriage.

However, only Pulaski County and Washington County are issuing marriage licenses.

The first couple arrived from Fort Smith at 2:40 a.m. The courthouse opened at 7:30 a.m. but the clerk’s office opened at 8 a.m.

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel asked the state Supreme Court to issue a stay on Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza’s ruling, which overturned Arkansas’ 2004 same-sex marriage ban last Friday (May 9).

County Clerk Becky Lewallen said she’s paying close attention to what could be decided by the state Supreme Court. She said she’s been in contact with Washington County Attorney George Butler.

“He’s the one that’s advising me every step of the way,” Lewallen said. “He’s been real great to tell me, ‘this is what you need to do because you are an A party in a lawsuit.”

“I’m glad to have him advice me,” she said.

If a stay is granted, it would temporarily stop gay couples from tying the knot. It would also give more time for the case to be appealed to a higher court.

State Sen. Bart Hester said, “Most of the time when a judge makes a ruling of this sort, they go ahead and put a self-imposed stay on it so both sides can be heard.”

“I think that’s what America is about, that’s what Arkansas is about,” Hester said. “We have a judicial system to work things out where both sides can be fairly heard.”

On Monday, the largest crowd arrived before the doors opened. The Washington County Courthouse issued 23 licenses in the first half-hour. By the end of the day, 84 marriage licenses were issued.

Lewallen said at first their software wasn’t equipped to do same-sex marriages. The marriage certificates had “Mr.” and “Mrs.,” which was changed, she said. The clerk’s office also took “bride” and “groom” off of the application and placed “spouse 1″ and “spouse 2.”

As of noon Tuesday (May 13), there had been 30 same-sex marriage certificates issued in Washington County, according to clerk’s office.