Same-sex couple turned away in Crittenden County - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Same-sex couple turned away from Ark. courthouse despite marriage ban overturn

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Leslie and Stephanie Bates, partners for the past four years, hoped to obtain a marriage license, but they were turned away. Leslie and Stephanie Bates, partners for the past four years, hoped to obtain a marriage license, but they were turned away.
The Crittenden County clerk is not issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The Crittenden County clerk is not issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
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CRITTENDEN COUNTY, AR -

(WMC) - On the heels of a judge's ruling to overturn a ban on same-sex marriage in Arkansas, at least one Mid-South couple was turned away at the courthouse door.

The couple showed up at the Crittenden County, Ark. courthouse to get married. However, the Crittenden County clerk is not issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Leslie and Stephanie Bates, partners for the past four years, hoped to obtain a marriage license, but they were turned away. WMC Action News 5 cameras followed them as they were kicked out of a public building.

"What I don't understand is it's finally legal in the state of Arkansas. How can they tell us we can't get married if it's legal in the state of Arkansas?" asked Bates.

WMC Action News 5's Nick Kenney was also escorted from the courthouse by an armed sheriff's deputy after asking questions. The county clerk's office said the media had been bothering them all day, that the county attorney had advised them not to comment, but they wouldn't give Kenney the name of the county attorney.

Crittenden County attorney Joe Rogers says the clerk is not issuing licenses because his interpretation of the judge's ruling is that it only applies to counties involved in the original lawsuit, not the entire state.

He says state code still defines marriage as being between a man and a woman. Rogers says the clerk will only begin issuing licenses if and when a court that has jurisdiction in Crittenden County rules that the ban is unconstitutional.

Clerks in Craighead County, Mississippi County, St. Francis County, Phillips County, and Crittenden County all said they are not issuing licenses to same-sex couples.

"If I have to drive wherever they said, I'll drive wherever they said to get married, but I'd rather do it here so all of our family can be here," said Bates. "We have kids together, you know. Our kids are excited."

Ron Kirkland is the pastor at First Baptist Church in West Memphis. He says same-sex marriage is an emotional issue on either side.

"The Lord said to me ... Your job is to love whoever is in front of you no matter what they're saying to you," he said. "I do think that marriage is defined by God, not by the courts. He introduced that institution in the garden of Eden and he made it pretty clear that it was for one man and one woman to be husband and wife and to be fruitful and multiply."

Stephanie says she used to have a husband, a marriage she describes as abusive. She says she and Leslie haven't had so much as an argument in the 14 years they've known each other.

The clerks WMC Action News 5 spoke to on Monday say they will issue same-sex marriage licenses if the state Supreme Court or a court in their respective counties so rule.

Copyright 2014 WMC Action News 5. All rights reserved.
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