Arkansas judge says he will rule in state marriage case within 2 weeks
April 18, 2014
Yesterday in Little Rock, Arkansas, Circuit Judge Chris Piazza heard three hours of arguments in a case filed on behalf of a wide array of plaintiffs seeking the freedom to marry for same-sex couples or respect for such marriages in Arkansas. At the end of the hearing, Judge Piazza said that he would rule on the case within the next two weeks.
If the judge rules in favor of marriage and does not stay the ruling, same-sex couples in several Arkansas counties may be able to marry soon after. Whatever the judge rules, it is likely that the case will be appealed - but because it has been filed in state court, it would be appealed to the Arkansas Supreme Court and could see resolution within a year.
At yesterday's hearing, lead attorney Cheryl Maples delivered passionate closing arguments, saying, that the plaintiffs "only want to exercise the exact same privileges that everybody else in Arkansas has." The Arkansas Times, who attended the hearing, reported:
In the midst of her impassioned argument, Maples began naming Arkansas couples who wish to be legally married. As she did, the couples silently stood in the gallery and remained standing as she spoke, sitting when she finished with their stories: a gay couple who had been together for 12 years who have built a business together and are soon to have a child through a surrogate; a lesbian couple who want to put both their names on a child's birth certificate, the couple quietly putting their arms around each other as Maples spoke; a man retired after 21 years in the Navy who wishes to marry his partner. Maples said that gays and lesbians in Arkansas don't have the resources of the groups that helped bankroll the effort to ban same-sex marriage in Arkansas, but they deserve their rights.
At the end of her statement, Maples became so moved that she had to stop a moment to compose herself when she mentioned her daughter, who is a lesbian. Though her daughter is not a plaintiff in the case, Maples told the court that she had filed the lawsuit for her, because someday if Maples' daughter decides to get married, she wanted her to be able to be legally married in the state of Arkansas. After Maples finished, the gallery gave her a long round of applause. Though the bailiffs in Piazza's court stirred at the outburst, the judge allowed the applause for Maples to continue until it tapered off.
The plaintiffs in the case, Wright v. Arkansas, include 20 different same-sex couples, plus three children of same-sex couples, and one woman seeking respect for her marriage to a woman for the purpose of divorce. Freedom to Marry spoke with one of the plaintiff couples, John and Robert, last year.
Cheryl Maples told Freedom to Marry that the plaintiffs represent a wide array of important reasons that same-sex couples want to marry - and that these families encapsulate why the freedom to marry is so important in Arkansas, and across the country.