Arkansas State Capitol – Photo: BBC World Service/flickr
After months of court-approved limbo, more than 500 same-sex couples in Arkansas finally got the news they had been waiting for: they are now legally wed.
In a ruling by Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen, those couples who were issued marriage licenses during a brief window last May will have their unions recognized by the state. After Arkansas’ ban on same-sex marriage was struck down, same-sex couples had one week to procure their marriage license before the state’s Supreme Court halted those nuptials, pending an appeal over the case.
“With shameless disrespect for fundamental fairness and equality, [Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration Director Larry Walther] insists on treating the marriages of same-sex couples who received marriage licenses between May 9 and May 15 as void from inception as a matter of law,'” Griffen’s said in his ruling. “This Court categorically rejects Director Walther’s manifestly inaccurate and tortured mis-interpretation of Rule 60 of the Arkansas Rules of Civil Procedure. If the position Director Walther asserts would not produce a ‘miscarriage of justice’ as that term is understood within the meaning of Rule 60(a), the words ‘miscarriage’ and ‘Justice’ have no meaning.”
As part of the ruling, Griffen also prohibited Walther from denying the validity of same-sex marriage licenses, recognizing same-sex couples’ status as married, and denying them the ability to file taxes jointly and enroll their spouses in the state health insurance plan.
According to the Associated Press, the state’s Attorney General Leslie Rutledge (R) was considering whether to appeal Griffen’s ruling.
“These marriages do not fall within the state’s definition of marriage as between one man and one woman,” she said. “I am evaluating the ruling and will determine the best path forward to protect the state’s interest.”
For those couples lucky enough to secure their marriage license during the brief window, today’s ruling brings a host of benefits. They can now jointly file taxes, enroll in health insurance plans and also enjoy the validation that comes with enjoying legal, married status in a state with notoriously homophobic attitudes towards its gay community.