"As Arkansas Republicans Freak Out About Marriage Equality, Senate Candidates Remain Mum"
On Friday afternoon, an Arkansas state judge issued a decision invalidating the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. Though Attorney General Dustin McDaniel intends to appeal, Judge Chris Piazza did not stay his decision in the meantime, allowing at least 15 same-sex couples to marry on Saturday. As of Monday morning, couples are already lined up at courthouses across the state to get their licenses as well.
Several Republican lawmakers, however, believe that Piazza should be impeached for his decision. State Sen. Jason Rapert (R) was the first to call for such a reaction, claiming that he’d already been in touch with members of the House who’d be willing to file such a motion. According to Ryan Saylor at The City Wire, this includes Reps. Justin Harris (R) and David Meeks (R), who both confirmed that they’d support impeaching Piazza. As Max Brantley notes at The Arkansas Times, these lawmakers swore to uphold both the U.S. and Arkansas state constitutions, both of which Piazza cited in his ruling, suggesting that filing impeachment proceedings would actually violate that oath. Rapert has previously advocated for President Obama to be impeached as well.
Former Gov. Mike Huckabee, who signed the 1997 statue banning same-sex marriage into law, expressed similar outrage, claiming that Piazza “mistook his black robe for a cape and declared himself to be ‘SUPER LAWMAKER!’” He urged Gov. Mike Beebe (D) to “call a special session of the legislature and impeach the judge and affirm the people’s will.”
Such a tactic is not likely to get very far. Speaker of the House Davy Carter (R) responded by saying that he won’t support any impeachment effort: “Trying to impeach a Judge because you don’t like his or her decision notwithstanding the subject matter is absurd and goes against hundreds of years of the way our great country has conducted business,” he said.
Lawmakers who oppose same-sex marriage have otherwise been quiet since Friday’s ruling. For example, though both Sen. Mark Pryor (D) and Rep. Tom Cotton (R) oppose allowing same-sex couples to marry, neither Senate contender has made a public statement about the decision.
The Arkansas Family Council, which originally helped pass Arkansas’ marriage ban, condemned Piazza’s decision that “marriage should be redefined,” because it could lead to “polygamy and other definitions of marriage.” Rather than join the impeachment effort though, the group placed its bets on the success of an appeal to the State Supreme Court.
Still, there are others who may impede the arrival of marriage equality in Arkansas. Melinda Reynolds, county clerk for Faulkner County, said this weekend that her office will not be distributing licenses to same-sex couples. According to the statement, she intends to “continue to uphold state law, as she is sworn to do,” arguing that Friday’s decision did not include an injunction against enforcing the law statewide.
The Arkansas decision is a bit different from the many other post-Windsor decisions over the past year because it was decided by a state judge. That means it has implications only for the state of Arkansas, and the Arkansas Supreme Court is not necessarily bound to stay the decision as the federal courts have been since the U.S. Supreme Court stayed Utah’s decision. Thus, the Arkansas Supreme Court could act the same way the New Jersey Supreme Court did, allowing marriages to proceed as the case’s appeals are heard, a decision that actually prompted New Jersey to withdraw its appeal. Arkansas is not New Jersey, and there’s no guarantee that the state will proceed in the same way, but the fact that couples are already marrying provides a unique circumstance for the state’s courts to consider.