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Raiders of the Lost Marriage Ark

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By Tony Perkins

Family Research Council — Arkansas may be “the Natural State” — but not on marriage, if one judge gets his way. Late Friday, the South’s most reliably pro-marriage state was rocked by the news that a local judge wadded up the will of 75% of voters and threw it on the progressive trash heap, where liberals hope to bury natural marriage. Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza joined the marriage circus with a ridiculous ruling that struck down Arkansas’s Amendment 83, officially expanding this country’s lawlessness to one of the most socially conservative states in the union.

“Although marriage is not expressly identified as a fundamental right in the Constitution, the United States Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized it as such. This is an unconstitutional attempt to narrow the definition of equality. The exclusion of a minority for no rational reason is a dangerous precedent.” Like judges in Utah, Virginia, Oklahoma, Texas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, and others, Piazza couldn’t resist elevating his own political agenda above the democratic process — thumbing his nose at local officials in the process.

Taking a page out of the Obama administration’s playbook, Piazza waited to unleash his decision until the close of business on Friday evening, after the county clerks’ offices had closed. He understood that by not issuing a stay or giving the state direction he was creating massive confusion and conflict in local jurisdictions. “Judge Piazza did a tremendous disservice to the people of Arkansas by leaving this in limbo,” said Arkansas Family Council President Jerry Cox.

Left to decide for themselves how to respond, the state’s clerks threw together an urgent conference call on Saturday to stake out their positions on licenses. The result was absolute bedlam. While some went back and forth on the legality of same-sex “marriage” certificates, Carroll and Pulaski Counties broke with the majority and opened their offices to offer licenses. Others, like Benton County, are determined to wait for the court’s guidance. “This determination is not being made based on animus toward same-sex couples. If the law requires it, the County Clerk will issue the licenses… [but for now], Amendment 83 remains binding in Benton County and will be respected.” This morning, after a weekend of questions, clerks’ offices were busy with people demanding answers — or licenses.

While Arkansas tries to sort out months of legal headaches, elected leaders are lining up to blast the ruling and Piazza’s judicial arrogance. As April’s New York Times polling showed, Arkansas voters aren’t exactly tripping over themselves to climb aboard the same-sex “marriage” bandwagon. Only 35% of the state — the lowest of the South — supports Judge Piazza’s position.

For now, Arkansas voters will have to hold their breath and wait. Although Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, a Democrat, says he supports same-sex “marriage,” he’s promised to do his sworn duty to defend the ban in court. Democratic Governor Mike Beebe has said before that he supports natural marriage — but in the coming months, voters will see just how strongly.

Tony Perkins is president of the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council. He is a former member of the Louisiana legislature where he served for eight years, and he is recognized as a legislative pioneer for authoring measures like the nation’s first Covenant Marriage law.

(Via FRC’s Washington Update. Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.)

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