Arkansas Supreme Court Must Now Decide Constituionality of Marriage Ban Alone

Oct 7, 2014

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear cases appealing same-sex marriage bans in five states. In May, the Arkansas State Supreme Court suspended a judge’s decision to void a 2004 constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in the state. 

The state Supreme Court has not yet issued a ruling. Jay Barth is a political scientist at Hendrix College. He says some experts speculate state justices have been awaiting a decision on the matter from the nation’s highest court.

 “That’s clearly not an option now for the Arkansas Supreme Court and they really are going to have to proceed. The question is do they get that done after this year or do they do it after the calendar year when the composition of that court has changed. There’s a lot of folks who have a lot of conjecture about what the implications of that are," said Barth. 

According to Barth,  the state Supreme Court has voted in favor of gay and lesbian rights in the past, particularly around adoption and other family issues.

He said three new state level judges may be elected in November and that could matter. Jack Wagoner is one of the lawyers who challenged the state's constitutional ban against gay marriage. According to Wagoner, the U.S. Supreme Court's decision is another domino in favor of legalization of same-sex marriage nation-wide.

"I think its huge," he said.  The United States SupremeCcourt refusing to hear those cases does not mean same-sex bans are out in those states that were not covered by those decisions, but it sends a pretty clear signal I think."

Bowen School of Law constitutional scholar Terry Beiner says Arkansans shouldn’t read too much into the decision.

 “The court really hasn’t said anything yet, it’s basically just said we’re not going to decide this yet. It’s basically just said we’re not going to decide this yet. Again, the practical effect is in many states that’s going to make these bans fall by the wayside."

 She said the nation’s Supreme Court may be waiting for a majority consensus among states before it takes up the case.