Gay couples marry in US state, most clerks sit out

May 13 2014, 15:23 IST
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SummaryMore than 200 gay couples obtained marriage licenses Monday in the conservative southern state of Arkansas after a judge tossed out its 10-year-old same-sex marriage ban, but only at a handful of courthouses as an overwhelming majority of county clerks said they first wanted the state Supreme Court to weigh in

More than 200 gay couples obtained marriage licenses Monday in the conservative southern state of Arkansas after a judge tossed out its 10-year-old same-sex marriage ban, but only at a handful of courthouses as an overwhelming majority of county clerks said they first wanted the state Supreme Court to weigh in.

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel _ who recently announced his personal support for same-sex marriage rights but said he would defend the law _ filed paperwork Monday to at least temporarily preserve the ban, which voters approved by a 3-to-1 margin.

In other states that have seen gay-marriage bans overturned, judges either issued stays with their orders or state lawyers sought them with some immediacy. McDaniel's office requested a stay from the local judge Friday night but had to wait until the full court record was available Monday before going to the state Supreme Court, under the justices' rules. Justices gave both sides until midday Tuesday to file arguments.

Seventy of the state's 75 clerks have not granted licenses. A handful of clerks, including one who granted licenses Monday, filed a stay request saying the judge's decision didn't address a law that threatens clerks with fines for ``wrongful issuance of a marriage license.''

With the weddings Saturday and Monday, Arkansas became the 18th state to allow same-sex marriages, and the first among former states of the old Confederacy, which broke away from the U.S. during its Civil War in the 1860s.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that a law forbidding the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages was unconstitutional. Using similar language, judges have since ruled against gay-marriage bans in Arkansas, Michigan, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Texas, and ordered Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee to recognize same-sex marriages from other states.

Democratic attorneys general in several states _ including Kentucky, Nevada, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Virginia _ have declined to defend same-sex marriage bans.

"On our licenses, it automatically prints `Mr.' and I told the girls just to change that to `Ms.''' said Becky Lewallen, the county clerk in Washington County, which is home to the University of Arkansas. She was among those who requested a stay.

A Pulaski County circuit judge tossed out the 2004 constitutional amendment, along with a 1997 state law, after business hours Friday. Carroll County, home to the town of Eureka Springs and known for its arts environment and liberal policies, issued 15 licenses to same-sex couples Saturday but stopped Monday to await

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