Some 500 same-sex couples married last year in Arkansas will have their unions re-recognized by the state following a year-long battle. Gay marriages were put on hold last year just one week after a circuit judge struck down a state law defining marriage as being between one man and one woman.
Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen Tuesday ordered officials in the state to recognize the marriages. The decision opens up a list of benefits that will now be available to the couples: joint tax filings, enrolling together on state insurance programs and putting both names on a child’s birth certificate, the Associated Press reported.
In May 2014, another Pulaski County Circuit judge, Chris Piazza, struck down a 2004 same-sex marriage ban approved by state voters, along with a law that had defined marriage along traditional lines. Same-sex marriage licenses were issued -- for a week.
During that small window last year in which gay Arkansas couples were allowed to marry, Arkansas became the first southern state to have legally wed same-sex couples. The state attorney general petitioned for a halt to the issuance of marriage licenses to gay couples last May and the state Supreme Court agreed with an unsigned order. The couples have been in legal limbo since. A U.S. district court in November struck down the order, but issued a stay until the U.S. Supreme Court can rule on the issue.
A group of same sex married couples in Arkansas brought a lawsuit against the state in February, saying their rights were being violated by the state's lack of recognition.
The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the issue this month in what is widely expected to be an opinion favoring marriage equality. There are currently 37 states where same-sex marriage is legal.