Local & Regional News
5:49 pm
Mon May 12, 2014

Deadline Tuesday For Parties In Same-Sex Case To File With Ark. Supreme Court

Gay marriage same-sex marriage Arkansas
A couple kisses while waiting in line at the Pulaski County Clerk's office to apply for a marriage license.
Credit Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The Arkansas Supreme Court is giving parties involved in the case that tossed out the state’s ban on same-sex marriages until noon Tuesday to respond to a request for a stay. Meanwhile scores of gay couples are taking advantage of the opportunity to wed after Eureka Springs became the first location Saturday where couple could get marriage licenses.

At the Pulaski County Courthouse in Little Rock Monday, gay couples began lining up before sunrise. When the doors opened, the crowd was greeted by Pulaski County Clerk Larry Crane.

“With the number of people that we expect applying for marriage licenses, it may pile up. We want you all to be comfortable and happy. We welcome you,” Crane said to applause.

Gay marriage same-sex marriage Arkansas
Shelly Butler and Susan Barr pose after becoming the first in Little Rock to get a marriage license.
Credit Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

People were then allowed in, with the first couple allowed to complete a license being Shelly Butler and Susan Barr, who have been together for 29 years.

Butler said it’s a day she never thought she’d see. “Not in my home state of Arkansas, but I’m very proud to be an Arkansan.”

The couple met while students in the 1980s at Southern Arkansas University. Barr says they decided to take advantage of the opportunity, “Mainly because we’re afraid they’re going to take it back.”

Immediately after getting their license, the two were married in the courthouse rotunda.

Gay marriage same-sex marriage Arkansas
Mark Norwine and Jonathan Keith Gober show their marriage license Monday.
Credit Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Also among the couples tying the knot were Mark Norwine and Jonathan Keith Gober. They’ve been dating almost 10 years and were plaintiffs in the lawsuit that led to Friday’s ruling.

“It’s joyous, it’s overwhelming,” Norwine said. “To have this witnessed in front of our families and all the friends that we have, it’s been amazing.”

Gober said the legal battle has been draining, but they’re surprised it led to the opportunity to get married this quickly.

“We thought it would go before the (Arkansas) Supreme Court before it would actually become legal or even before the United States Supreme Court,” Gober said.

But not everyone in the rotunda supported what was happening.

Gay marriage same-sex marriage Arkansas
Bishop Charles E. Williams of Covenant of Zion Cathedral Church in Little Rock carries signs objecting to gay marriage Monday.
Credit Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Bishop Charles E. Williams with Covenant of Zion Cathedral Church in Little Rock held signs while walking through the celebrations, sharing his beliefs.

“Walk away from this lifestyle today. God loves you today, but not your sin. Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” he repeatedly said.

Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel formally appealed the case Monday to the Arkansas Supreme Court. He’s also asking justices to issue a stay of Judge Chris Piazza’s ruling from Friday, which would halt the issuance of marriage licenses until the matter can be decided in court. It’s unclear how quickly the court will act.

Pulaski County Clerk Larry Crane believes the same-sex couples who got married will be legally recognized under the law.

“For the people who got their licenses and actually go forward and complete their marriage, I am confident that those marriages will be valid," Crane said. "For people who get licenses and don’t get married today, then I’m not so sure, I’m not clear. We’ll be talking with our county attorney, we’ll be talking with the Attorney General to make sure that everyone’s rights are protected.”

Including Pulaski, four Arkansas counties reported that they were granting licenses to gay couples Monday. The others were Saline, Washington and Marion Counties.

Carroll, which had initially started granting licenses, stopped. Officials there and elsewhere said they wanted to wait until the Arkansas Supreme Court can weigh in on the matter.