Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Marriage equality lawsuit gets a different judge

Posted By on Tue, Sep 3, 2013 at 2:01 PM

click to enlarge JUDGE PIAZZA: Draws marriage case.
  • JUDGE PIAZZA: Draws marriage case.
Circuit Judge Jay Moody
today granted a plaintiffs' motion and stepped down from hearing the lawsuit challenging the state ban on same-sex marriage. The case was reassigned by the circuit clerk to Judge Chris Piazza.

Action in the case is expected soon on motions to enjoin the state from enforcing the law in the case of gay and lesbian couples legally married in other states who are seeking privileges otherwise granted to couples married in Arkansas. This is the so-called full-faith-and-credit aspect of the law that guides how Arkansas courts customarily have viewed couples who were legally married elsewhere but might not have been able to marry under Arkansas law. First cousins, for example.

Piazza handled a hallmark case of importance to gay people in Arkansas. He struck down the initiated act that attempted to prohibit unmarried couples from adopting or fostering children. The initiative was aimed at preventing gay couples from being parents. He wrote then:

"Due Process and Equal Protection are not hollow words without substance. They are rights enumerated in our constitution that must not be construed in such a way as to deny or disparage other rights retained by the people."

Equal protection is at the heart of the new federal precedent in the Windsor case in which the U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act because it prevented equal treatment under tax law for a legally married lesbian couple in New York. The ruling has since been used in other states.

The court record says an oral recusal motion was made by plaintiffs, but doesn't reflect the reason it was requested. I have a call in.

Moody was nominated recently by President Obama to fill a federal district court judgeship in Little Rock. That nomination is pending before the Senate.

UPDATE: Cheryl Maples, the lawyer who made the recusal motion, said she had no comment on why she made the motion. A judge is not required to spread on the record reasons for recusal.


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