Arkansas historic first same-sex marriage marked by confusion and joy

(Photo: REUTERS / Jacob Slaton)Rev. Jennie Barrington (L) performs the marriage ceremony of Amanda Boyd and Narkisha Scott (R) at the Pulaski County Courthouse in Little Rock, Arkansas May 12, 2014. Nearly 100 same-sex couples, hoisting rainbow flags, crowded the county courthouse of Little Rock to receive marriage licenses after a judge last week struck down the state's 10-year ban on gay marriage.

Jennifer Rambo, 26, and Kristin Seaton, 27, from Forth Smith became the first same-sex couple to be legally married in Arkansas, a Bible Belt state known for its socially conservative norms taking advantage of a court ruling that has since been ruled against by a higher court.

Both women were married at dawn May 10 on a sidewalk outside the county courthouse of Eureka Springs, Arkansas. They later received their marriage license after an initial period of confusion.

But the state's Supreme Court suspension Friday of a lower court's decision striking down a 2004 ban on gay marriage added to overall confusion.

Knau, a state public radio station reported there would be no more marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples — at least for now.

Rambo and Seaton's  same-sex marriage came a day after Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza ruled Arkansas' constitutional amendment overwhelmingly passed by voters in 2004 banning gay marriage was "an unconstitutional attempt to narrow the definition of equality."

The couple said they spent the night in their car after traveling for about two hours to Eureka Springs from their home at Fort Smith. They were the first of 10 couples to line-up outside the courthouse before it opened.

"Thank God," Rambo said after Carroll County Deputy Clerk Jane Osborn issued them a license, the Associated Press reported.

There was a brief period of anxiety when deputy clerk Lana Gordon said she wasn't sure she was authorized to grant a marriage license and asked whether Piazza's order had any authority in Eureka Springs. She then asked Rambo and Seaton to leave.

 "We just walked out of here crying," Rambo said, according to AP.

But once Osborn got things sorted out, other same-sex couples let Rambo and Seaton return to their place at the head of the line.

Piazza's lack of a stay caused confusion among the state's county clerks, said Association of Arkansas Counties executive director Chris Villines. "The court didn't give us any time to get the kinks worked out," PolicyMic website reported.

Arkansas said it would appeal Piazza's decision. If Piazza's decision is upheld, however, Arkansas will join 17 states and Washington, D.C. that have legalized same-sex marriage. That is on hold for now after Friday's ruling.

Momentum has shifted in favor of gay marriage across the country after the U.S. Supreme Court last year ruled as unconstitutional a law forbidding the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages.

In 2004, Massachusetts became the first state to recognize gay marriages. Federal judges have ruled against same-sex marriage bans in Michigan, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and Virginia. They have also ordered Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee to recognize same-sex marriages from other states.

Gay rights' groups say more than 70 lawsuits seeking marriage equality are pending in about 30 states.

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