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Same-sex marriages on hold in Idaho, given go-ahead in Arkansas

By Greg Botelho, CNN
updated 7:10 PM EDT, Thu May 15, 2014
The Rev. Tony Larsen and his partner, Craig Matheus, are refused a marriage license by Racine County Clerk Wendy Christensen, right, in the clerk's office in Racine, Wisconsin, on Friday, June 13. The county does not grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples despite a judge's ruling that the state ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional. The Rev. Tony Larsen and his partner, Craig Matheus, are refused a marriage license by Racine County Clerk Wendy Christensen, right, in the clerk's office in Racine, Wisconsin, on Friday, June 13. The county does not grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples despite a judge's ruling that the state ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional.
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • An Arkansas judge paves way for same-sex marriages
  • Circuit judge says he is remedying harm
  • A federal appeals court stays a ruling that would allow such marriages in Idaho

(CNN) -- Same-sex couples can marry in Arkansas, but can't yet do the same in Idaho, thanks to a pair of court rulings Thursday.

The Arkansas case is an entirely in-state matter, involving a local county court and the state's Supreme Court. But it's similar to a spate of federal rulings in recent months because the initial ruling that kicked off the process knocked down Arkansas law barring same-sex marriages.

Twenty-one gay and lesbian couples were part of a group of plaintiffs challenging Amendment 83 to the Arkansas Constitution, saying it violated their federal and state rights of equal protection and privacy.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza ruled last Friday in those couples' favor. But after his decision, it wasn't clear whether some same-sex couples could begin getting married immediately.

The state Supreme Court weighed in Wednesday, ruling "the court's order is not final, and we have no jurisdiction to hear the appeal." The same court denied the state's motion for an emergency stay of Piazza's ruling.

Piazza issued what he called a "final order" on Thursday, in lieu of the Arkansas Supreme Court ruling. On the same day, he issued another document saying "this court ... cannot in good conscience grant" the state's request for an immediate stay of his decision.

"Constitutional violations are routinely recognized as triggering irreparable harm unless they are promptly remedied," Piazza wrote, adding that "there is no evidence" those pushing to continue the state's same-sex marriage ban "will be harmed," but those trying to overturn the prohibition will suffer.

The Pulaski Circuit/County Clerk posted links to Piazza's orders on its website.

The same office tweeted Thursday afternoon, soon after the latest rulings: "The Pulaski Circuit and County Clerk's Office is open for business and we are issuing marriage licenses to all qualified applicants." CNN affiliate KARK reported the clerk was then issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. It was not clear what was occurring in other Arkansas counties.

A federal judge moved Idaho in that same direction on Tuesday, ruling that state's laws violated the U.S. Constitution because they "deny its gay and lesbian citizens the fundamental right to marry and relegate their families to a stigmatized, second-class status without sufficient reason for doing so."

While U.S. Magistrate Judge Candy Wagahoff Dale's decision striking down Idaho's same-sex marriage ban was clear, it didn't take effect right away. She stated it would become law at 9 a.m. Friday.

That's where the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals came in, with three judges signing onto a one-line ruling putting off Dale's decision from going into effect -- at least for now.

The appeals judges ruled that Dale's ruling "is temporarily stayed pending this court's disposition of appellants' emergency motions for a stay pending appeal."

Thursday's decision from the 9th Circuit appeals court prevents a repeat of what happened in Utah and Michigan, where federal judges similarly struck down those states' same-sex marriage bans effectively immediately. Higher courts later stayed those decisions on appeal, but not before some same-sex couples married.

Same-sex couples marry in Michigan before court halts licenses

In recent months, federal judges have found restrictions limiting marriage to one man and one woman to be unconstitutional in several other states. But those rulings didn't take effect immediately, having been stayed as appeals courts and possibly the U.S. Supreme Court weigh in.

Appeals court scrutinizes Virginia same-sex marriage ban

CNN's Suzanne Presto contributed to this report.

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