The Freedom to Marry in Arkansas

Winning Marriage: June 26, 2015

The United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of the freedom to marry nationwide on June 26, 2015, allowing all same-sex couples in Arkansas the ability to marry once and for all. The decision followed more than a year of marriage litigation in the state, including several weeks of legal weddings in May 2014.

History and the Path to Victory:

  • February 17, 1997: The Arkansas Legislature passes a state statute restricting marriage to different-sex couples. Governor Mike Huckabee signs the bill into law.
  • November 2, 2004: Opponents of the freedom to marry in Arkansas push through Amendment 3, a constitutional amendment denying same-sex couples the freedom to marry and any other legal family status. The amendment cements clearly discriminatory language into the Arkansas Constitution.
  • 2004-2013: As Americans nationwide engage in conversations about why marriage matters, national and local advocates in Arkansas take strides toward increasing understanding of same-sex couples and their families.
  • May 2014: Polling in Arkansas tracks a marked growth in support for the freedom to marry, reflecting the power of the national discussion of why marriage matters.
  • July 2, 2013: Same-sex couples and private lawyer Cheryl Maples files a state legal case seeking the freedom to marry in Arkansas, Wright v. Smith. In the same month, a federal case, Jernigan v. Crane is filed, building momentum for marriage in the courts. Read the initial complaints in Wright and Jernigan
  • May 9, 2014: State Judge Chris Piazza rules in favor of the freedom to marry in the case Wright v. Smith, striking down the state’s marriage ban. Read the ruling. The ruling is stayed on May 16, 2014, but not before nearly every county issues marriage licenses to same-sex couples. These couples are the first married same-sex couples in the American South.
  • November 25, 2014: U.S. District Court Judge Kristine G. Baker rules in favor of the freedom to marry in Jernigan v. Crane, staying her ruling pending appeal. Read the ruling. 
  • June 9, 2015: State Judge Wendell Griffen rules in Frazier-Henson v. Walther that the 500+ marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples in May 2014 are valid, fueling momentum just weeks before the Supreme Court’s final ruling on marriage. Read the ruling.
  • June 26, 2015: The United States Supreme Court rules in favor of the freedom to marry, ending marriage discrimination across the country.

Groups That Actively Worked on Marriage:

  • Center for Artistic Revolution is a 501(c)(3)-sponsored statewide organization that strives for fairness and equality for all Arkansans.
  • Freedom to Marry was the campaign to win marriage for same-sex couples nationwide.