Arkansas plans to appeal same-sex marriage ruling

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Jennifer Rambo, right, of Fort Smith, Ark., kisses her partner Kristin Seaton, left, of Jacksonville, Ark., following their marriage ceremony in front of the Carroll County Courthouse as Sheryl Maples, far left, the lead attorney who filed the Wright v. the State of Arkansas lawsuit, looks on Saturday, May 10, 2014, in Eureka Springs, Ark. Rambo and Seaton were the first same-sex couple to be granted a marriage license in Eureka Springs after a judge overturned Ammendment 83, which banned same-sex marriage in the state of Arkansas. (AP Photo/Sarah Bentham)

Jennifer Rambo, right, of Fort Smith, Ark., kisses her partner Kristin Seaton, left, of Jacksonville, Ark., following their marriage ceremony in front of the Carroll County Courthouse as Sheryl Maples, far left, the lead attorney who filed the Wright v. the State of Arkansas lawsuit, looks on Saturday, May 10, 2014, in Eureka Springs, Ark. Rambo and Seaton were the first same-sex couple to be granted a marriage license in Eureka Springs after a judge overturned Ammendment 83, which banned same-sex marriage in the state of Arkansas. (AP Photo/Sarah Bentham)

Kristin Seaton, center, of Jacksonville, Ark., holds up her marriage license as she leaves the Carroll County Courthouse in Eureka Springs, Ark., with her partner, Jennifer Rambo, left, of Fort Smith, Ark. Saturday, May 10, 2014, in Eureka Springs, Ark. Rambo and Seaton were the first same-sex couple to be granted a marriage license in Eureka Springs after a judge overturned Ammendment 83, which banned same-sex marriage in the state of Arkansas. (AP Photo/Sarah Bentham)

Sheila McFadden, center, and Ken Riley, right, yell words of encouragement at the crowd gathered in front of the Carroll County Courthouse after initially being turned away for a marriage license in Eureka Springs, Ark., Saturday, May 10, 2014, in Eureka Springs, Ark. Same-sex couples were eventually granted marriage licenses, Saturday, in Eureka Springs after a judge overturned Ammendment 83, which banned same-sex marriage in the state of Arkansas. (AP Photo/Sarah Bentham)

Trella Laughlin, center, of Eureka Springs, Ark., waves a flag at passersby as she waits in line at the Carroll County Courthouse to apply for a marriage license, Saturday, May 10, 2014, in Eureka Springs, Ark. Laughlin, and her partner, Marie Howard, were married August 21, 2013 in Iowa, but wanted to get married again in their home state after a judge overturned Amendment 83, which banned same-sex marriage in the state of Arkansas. (AP Photo/Sarah Bentham)

A crowd gathers inside the Carroll County Courthouse to apply for a marriage license in Eureka Springs, Ark., Saturday, May 10, 2014. A judge overturned amendment 83 on Friday, which banned same-sex marriage in the state of Arkansas. (AP Photo/Sarah Bentham)

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EUREKA SPRINGS, Ark. (AP) — Lawyers for the state followed through with their promise to appeal a judge’s decision overturning the constitutional amendment overwhelmingly passed by voters in 2004 banning gay marriage.

But not before 15 licenses were issued for same-sex couples in northwest Arkansas’ Carroll County. Gay marriage arrived in the Bible Belt on Saturday, beginning with two women who had traveled overnight to ensure they’d be first in line.

“Thank God,” Jennifer Rambo said after Carroll County Deputy Clerk Jane Osborn issued a marriage license to her and Kristin Seaton, a former volleyball player at the University of Arkansas. The Fort Smith couple wed moments later on a sidewalk near the courthouse; the officiant wore a rainbow-colored dress.

In total, 15 licenses were issued for same-sex couples in northwest Arkansas’ Carroll County, Osborn said.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza paved the way Friday with a ruling that removed a 10-year-old barrier, saying a constitutional amendment overwhelmingly passed by voters in 2004 banning gay marriage was “an unconstitutional attempt to narrow the definition of equality.” Piazza’s ruling also overturned a 1997 state law banning gay marriage.

But because Piazza didn’t issue a stay, Arkansas’ 75 county clerks were left to decide for themselves whether to grant marriage licenses.

Rambo, 26, and Seaton, 27, were the first gay couple to be legally married. They arrived about 2 a.m., slept in a Ford Focus and awoke every half-hour to make sure no one else would take a spot at the head of the line.

As dawn came, no one was certain any clerk would issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple. Initially, deputy clerk Lana Gordon said she wasn’t sure she had the authority and shooed people from her office.

“We just walked out of here crying,” Rambo said.

When Osborn intervened, other same-sex couples let Rambo and Seaton return to their place in line.

“And some of these people here have been waiting 50 years and they still instructed us to come up front,” Rambo said.

Carroll County was believed to be the only county that issued marriage licenses on Saturday. Several were open for early primary-election voting but staffers said they were not prepared to issue marriage licenses.

Piazza’s lack of a stay caused confusion among county clerks, Association of Arkansas Counties executive director Chris Villines said.

“The court didn’t give us any time to get the kinks worked out,” Villines said.

Villines said after a conference call with county clerks from around the state he wasn’t sure how many counties would being issuing same-sex marriage licenses Monday. Villines said county officials around the state were dismayed with the timing of Piazza’s decision and that he didn’t stay the ruling.

Jason Owens, an attorney for four of the six counties named in the lawsuit over the gay marriage ban, said he’ll ask Piazza on Monday for guidance on how to proceed.

“My clients want to follow the law. We just want to know what the law is, essentially,” Owens said.

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel on Saturday notified Piazza that he would appeal Piazza’s ruling to the state Supreme Court. McDaniel had already asked the judge to stay his decision pending an appeal.

The U.S. Supreme Court last year ruled that a law forbidding the

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