UPDATE: Attorney General Rutledge provides a few more details on marriage ruling response; advising equal treament by state agencies | Arkansas Blog

Friday, June 26, 2015

UPDATE: Attorney General Rutledge provides a few more details on marriage ruling response; advising equal treament by state agencies

Posted By on Fri, Jun 26, 2015 at 1:22 PM

Judd Deere, spokesman for Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, has responded to several questions about pending legal questions related to Arkansas's response to today's marriage equality ruling. Key: Same-sex couples should be treated the same as opposite-sex couples by state agencies.

Will Rutledge appeal the Griffen ruling that said couples married last May before the State Supreme Court stayed Judge Chris Piazza's equality ruling?

Our focus today is helping the Governor, State agencies, county clerks, justices of the peace and other government agencies and officials understand and follow this ruling. In the days ahead, a decision will be made with regards to this appeal.

Will the office drop the 8th Circuit appeal of Judge Kristine Baker's ruling invalidating the ban or the Arkansas Supreme Court appeal, still undecided by the state's highest court after more than seven months in the hopper?

Our focus today is helping the Governor, State agencies, county clerks, justices of the peace and other government agencies and officials understand and follow this ruling. In the days ahead, a decision will be made with regards to the 8th Circuit and the Arkansas Supreme Court.

What advice is the office giving to the Department of Finance and Administration and the Health Department, both defendants in the civil rights actions?

The Attorney General has said, in matters regarding civil marriage and the attendant rights, benefits, and obligations of civil marriages, same-sex couples should be treated exactly the same as opposite-sex couples.

Against resistance in Louisiana and Mississippi, Rutledge shines.

UPDATE: Rutledge's office also responded through Deere to our question about what exactly was meant by a Twitter post from the office. It said:

I urge those seeking to marry to be respectful as the State seeks to follow this ruling from #SCOTUS. #arpx #arleg

Had somebody been disrespectful, I wondered?

Said Deere:

“As State agencies, county clerks, justices of the peace and other government agencies and officials follow this ruling, the Attorney General is urging those seeking to marry to be respectful and patient as forms, databases and procedures are changed. Some of these changes may take longer in certain instances as implementation is consistent with the rule of law.”

UPDATE II: Later in the day, Rutledge's office issued this longer memo on the topic:

The purpose of this memorandum is to advise officials of the State of Arkansas and government officials of Arkansas counties, Arkansas municipalities, and others regarding the same-sex marriage ruling today by the United States Supreme Court in Obergefell, James, et al. v. Hodges, Richard, et al. (U.S. Supreme Court No. 14-556, June 26, 2015).

At the outset, it should be noted that the U.S. Supreme Court directive applies only to government agencies and officials, and civil marriage recognized by the government and does not compel religious institutions or clergy to recognize same-sex marriage. The opinion specifically notes that “[t]he First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered. ” Id., slip opinion at *27.

The fundamental governing principle to ensure compliance by government officials and government entities with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling is: same-sex couples should be treated exactly the same as opposite-sex couples in matters regarding civil marriage and the attendant rights, benefits, and obligations of civil marriage. State and local officials must immediately recognize the validity of same-sex marriage licenses issued by Arkansas and same-sex marriage licenses issued by other states, just as state and local officials recognize the validity of opposite-sex marriage licenses issued by Arkansas and other states. Arkansas officials should recognize the validity of same-sex marriage licenses issued in other states both before and after the Supreme Court ruling.

Arkansas county clerks should issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples upon request, requiring exactly the same procedures, fees, and other requirements as required for opposite-sex couples. Government agencies which provide privileges and benefits to married couples or spouses of married individuals should provide the same privileges and benefits to married same-sex couples and same-sex spouses of married individuals. For example, the state tax authorities should allow same-sex married couples to submit joint tax returns if those couples choose to do so, and should treat them exactly the same as opposite-sex couples who submit joint tax returns. Government employers that allow spouses of married employees to enroll in employee benefits programs such as health insurance should allow same-sex spouses of employees to enroll in employee benefits programs, exactly as they allow opposite-sex spouses of employees to enroll in employee benefits programs.

Again, the Supreme Court decision applies only to government entities, and civil marriage recognized by States and government and does not compel religious institutions, clergy, or private individuals to recognize same-sex marriage.

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