In the absence of a clear statement by the US Supreme Court, a patchwork of decisions about same-sex marriage have been created all over the country, creating a great deal of confusion. Such marriages are currently legal in 36 states and the District of Columbia. Some states have legalized them by legislative acts, some by referenda, but most have been as a result of courts declaring that bans on such marriages were unconstitutional.
In Arkansas, a state court judge ruled in May 2014 that the state must issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. About 500 couples took advantage of that ruling and got married before the state Supreme Court issued a stay order six days later halting the process until they issued a definitive ruling. But the court has not taken up the issue since, leading some to speculate that they were ducking the issue and leaving it up to the US Supreme Court to decide.
But what about the 500 or so couples who got married in that six-day window? According to a Reuters report, “The state subsequently refused to accept joint tax returns from same-sex couples who had wed and declined to enroll the spouses of gay and lesbian government employees in the state health insurance program.”
But yesterday, a state judge told the state government that the couples were lawfully married and ordered the state to grant them the full benefits and privileges that married couples are entitled to.
If the US Supreme Court does not unequivocally issue an opinion in favor of same-sex marriage later this month, this is the kind of mess that will be created, as the status of married couples all over the country go into a state of limbo and we have a whole series of new litigation as states try and untangle the legal state of marriages conducted under the many different scenarios.
Amber Phillips writes that even conservatives who still oppose same-sex marriage feel that it is a lost cause and have shifted their attention to other issues. They may worry that ‘winning’ in the Supreme Court (i.e., the court ruling against the constitutional right to same-sex marriage) will once again force them to fight on this losing issue.