LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas — A county clerk said Thursday that a federal lawsuit challenging Arkansas' 2004 ban on same-sex marriages should be dismissed and the issue should be considered in state court.
Pulaski County Clerk Larry Crane said in court papers that a lawsuit filed by three gay couples in July mimics one filed by 11 couples in state court. He said a state court should have the chance to address the issue before a federal court gets involved.
"A decision (in the separate state case) striking down the state strictures against same-sex marriage will fully resolve the claims of all plaintiffs," Crane wrote. "A decision ... adverse to those plaintiffs is appealable to the U.S. Supreme Court."
Arkansas voters in 2004 approved a constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between one man and one woman. It passed by a 3-to-1 margin.
Without the dismissal of the federal lawsuit, Crane would be forced to fight the same battle on two different fronts.
The clerk said that while the three couples raise federal constitutional issues that are "substantial and important questions," marriage licenses are matters of state law and that the questions regarding them should be answered in a state court.
"(Crane) believes that the people of Arkansas should have their answer from their state courts, not because it will be a better or more palatable decision but because it will have arrived from officials for whom the electorate is fully responsible," a lawyer for the clerk wrote.
The three couples sued Crane, whose office issues marriages licenses in Arkansas' most-populous county, plus the governor and attorney general, who have yet to formally respond to the complaint.