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Wright v. Arkansas

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Wright v. Arkansas
60CV-2013-2662
Full name M. Kendall Wright, et al. v. Arkansas, et al.
Filed 2013-07-01
Ended 2014-05-16
Plaintiffs M. Kendall Wright, Individually, Julia E. Wright, Individually, and M. Kendall Wright and Julia E. Wright, by, for, and on behalf of their son, G.D.W., a minor, and their daughter, P.L.W., a minor; Rhonda L. Eddy and Treba L. Leath; Carol L. Owens and Ranee J. Harp; Natalie Wartick, Individually, and Tommie J. Wartick, Individually, and Natalie Wartick and Tommie J. Wartick, by, for, and on behalf of their son, T.B.W.; Kimberly M. Kidwell and Kathryn E. Short; James Boone and Wesley Givens; Kimberly M. Robinson and Felicity L. Robinson; Linda L. Meyers and Angela K. Shelby; Gregory A. Bruce and William D. Smith, Jr.; Monica J. Loyd and Jennifer L. Lochridge; Jennifer D. Moore and Mandy A. Lyles; Jonathan K. Gober and Mark R. Norwine; Andra Alsbury and Amber Gardner-Alsbury; Angela Spears Gullette and Livicie C. Gullette; Shannon Havens and Rachel Whittenburg; Cody Renegar and Thomas Staed; Katherine Henson and Angelia Buford; Christopher H. Horton and Michael E. Potts; John Schenck and Robert Loyd; and William A. King and John McClay Rankine
v.
Defendants The State of Arkansas (removed); the Governor of the State of Arkansas, Michael D. Beebe, in his official capacity, and his successors in office (removed); the Attorney General of the State of Arkansas, Dustin McDaniel, in his official capacity, and his successors in office (removed); Nathaniel Smith, MD, MPH, Interim Director of the Arkansas Department of Health, in his official capacity, and his successors in office; Director of the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration, Richard Weiss, in his official capacity, and his successors in office; Pulaski Circuit/County Clerk, Larry Crane, in his official capacity, and his successors in interest; White County Clerk, Cheryl Evans, in her official capacity, and her successors in interest; Lonoke County Clerk, William "Larry" Clarke, in his official capacity, and his successors in interest; Conway County Clerk, Debbie Hartman, in his official capacity, and her successors in office; Saline County Clerk, Doug Curtis, in his official capacity, and his successors in office; Faulkner County Clerk, Melinda Reynolds, in her official capacity, and her successors in office (removed); and Washington County Clerk, Becky Lewallen, in her official capacity, and her successors in office
Initial court Circuit Court of Pulaski County, Arkansas, 3rd Division
Final court Arkansas Supreme Court
Current status Judgment for the Plaintiffs issued by Judge Chris Piazza of an Arkansas Circuit Court on May 9, 2014.
Smith v. Wright (1)
Arkansas Supreme Court, CV-14-414
Defendants-Appellants Interim Director of the Arkansas Department of Health, Nathaniel Smith, MD, MPH; Director of the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration, Richard Weiss
Separate Defendants-Appellants White County Clerk, Cheryl Evans; Lonoke County Clerk, William "Larry" Clarke; Washington County Clerk, Becky Lewallen; and Conway County Clerk, Debbie Hartman
Plaintiffs-Appellees M. Kendall Wright, et al.
Appealed: 2014-05-12
Decided: 2014-05-14
Status: Appeal dismissed for lack of jurisdiction
Smith v. Wright (2)
Arkansas Supreme Court, CV-14-427
Defendants-Appellants Interim Director of the Arkansas Department of Health, Nathaniel Smith, MD, MPH; Director of the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration, Richard Weiss
Separate Defendants-Appellants White County Clerk, Cheryl Evans; Lonoke County Clerk, William "Larry" Clarke; Washington County Clerk, Becky Lewallen; and Conway County Clerk, Debbie Hartman
Separate Defendant-Appellant Pulaski Circuit/County Clerk, Larry Crane
Plaintiffs-Appellees M. Kendall Wright, et al.
Appealed: 2014-05-15
Status: Stay issued May 16, 2014; appeal pending

Wright v. Arkansas is a 2013 Arkansas court case requesting that the state's marriage ban and non-recognition of out-of-state marriages be declared unconstitutional, and the state issue marriage licenses and recognize same-sex couples married in other states as married.

The case was filed on July 1, 2013, in Pulaski County Circuit Court, on behalf of 20 same-sex couples, some of which had married in other states and others of which had been denied marriage licenses by county clerks in Arkansas. It was assigned to Judge Jay Moody under the case number 60CV-13-2662. An amended complaint was filed on July 21, and a second amended complaint was filed on August 5. On September 3, the judge recused himself and the case was reassigned to Judge Chris Piazza.

Motions for temporary reliefEdit

On August 15, a motion for temporary relief was filed, which included a request for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction preventing enforcement of Arkansas statutes and constitutional provisions which bar recognition of same-sex couples while the case is pending. Among the factors supporting the request are that one married couple is expecting another child and both parents' names should be listed on the birth certificate. The state defendants replied in opposition to that motion on August 23, relying mostly on their motion to dismiss filed the same day for their reasoning why the motion for temporary relief should be denied.

Motions to dismissEdit

On August 22, the plaintiffs filed a motion to voluntarily dismiss the State of Arkansas, the Governor of Arkansas, and the Attorney General of Arkansas from the list of defendants. On August 23, the state defendants (the State, Governor, Attorney General, and Department of Health) filed a motion to dismiss of their own, agreeing with the plaintiffs that the State, Governor, and Attorney General should be dismissed based on sovereign immunity and those offices not having anything to do with the enforcement of the marriage laws.

Their motion to dismiss included several other claims, including that a provision of the state constitution cannot fall afoul of another provision; that all of the claims based on Arkansas law should be dismissed due to the constitutional marriage ban; that Baker v. Nelson, US v. Windsor, and Citizens for Equal Protection v. Bruning indicate there is no Due Process or Equal Protection violation; that the Full Faith and Credit Clause applies only to courts, not state action, and cannot be used as a basis for a lawsuit; that the Contract Clause of the US Constitution does not apply to marriage contracts; that the marriage ban does not affect any rights of the plaintiff children; that non-biological parents of the plaintiff children have no right to assert claims on their behalf; and that the marriage bans are rational.

On September 6, the state defendants were dismissed from the case.

Two sets of county clerks filed answers, affirmative defenses, and motions to dismiss on August 23. They each incorporated the State's corresponding documents and expanded upon with additional responses. Faulkner County's clerk filed her corresponding documents on August 30, with an additional complaint that the clerk had not been properly served.

BackgroundEdit

Act 146 of 1997 amended Arkansas Code § 9-11-208 to deny same-sex couples marriage licenses and no not recognize marriages between people of the same sex.

In 2002, the state supreme court struck down the state's sodomy ban in a case called Jegley v. Picado, a year before the U.S. Supreme Court struck down those bans in several other states. Among the findings in Jegley were that

...certain inherent and inalienable rights, including the enjoyment of life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness: All men are created equally free and independent, and have certain inherent and inalienable rights, amongst which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty; of acquiring, possessing, and protecting property and reputation, and of pursuing their own happiness.
The rights granted by our constitution are guaranteed to all citizens equally. Article 2, Section 3, provides: "The equality of all persons before the law is recognized, and shall ever remain inviolate; nor shall any citizen ever be deprived of any right, privilege or immunity, nor exempted from any burden or duty, on account of race, color or previous condition." Ark. Const.art. 2 § 3. "The General Assembly shall not grant to any citizen or class of citizens privileges or immunities which upon the same terms shall not equally belong to all citizens." Ark. Const. art. 2 § 18.

Amendment 83 of 2004 was enacted at the ballot box, perhaps in response to this and the fear that a court would apply this same reasoning to marriage.

The plaintiffs claim that Amendment 83, Arkansas Code § 9-11-208, and several other sections of the Arkansas code violate the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of both the federal and state constitutions, both as applied to the plaintiffs and on their face, and that they constitute an irreparable injury to the plaintiffs. They also claim that the non-recognition of out-of-state marriage licenses violates the Full Faith and Credit clause of the federal Constitution and another section of the state constitution which prevents the impairment of obligations of contracts.

TimelineEdit

Non-court timelineEdit

  • 2004-??-??: John Schenck and Robert Loyd marry in Canada.
  • 2004-12-27: William A. King and John McClay Rankine marry in Ontario, Canada.
  • 2010-08-09: Natalie Wartick and Tommie Jean marry in Iowa.
  • 2011-05-09: Jennifer D. Moore and Mandy A. Lyles marry in Iowa.
  • 2012-10-15: Andra Alsbury and Amber Gardner-Alsbury marry in Massachusetts.
  • 2012-12-14: Kimberly M. Robinson and Felicity L. Robinson marry in Iowa.
  • 2013-03-08: M. Kendall Wright and Julia Wright marry in Iowa.

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