Arkansas will get a double-dose of the same-sex marriage fight on Thursday, with judges scheduled to hear arguments in two separate lawsuits challenging the state's marriage ban.
In May, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza struck down Arkansas' marriage ban as unconstitutional in Wright v. Arkansas. About 500 same-sex couples married before the state Supreme Court finally stayed Piazza's decision. At 9 a.m. CDT on Thursday, the high court will hear arguments in the state's appeal of the May ruling.
Then, at 1:30 p.m. CDT, U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker will hear arguments on motions from both sides in a federal lawsuit challenging the marriage ban, Jernigan v. Crane. Same-sex couples are asking Baker to immediately strike down the ban, while the state is asking her to dismiss the suit.
On the eve of the hearings, hundreds gathered on the steps of the Arkansas Supreme Court building Wednesday to call on the justices to uphold the marriage ban and "honor [the] vote" of people who approved a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in 2004.
Among those who spoke at the rally was Josh Duggar, executive director of Family Research Council Action and a star of the TLC reality series 19 Kids and Counting, according to Arkansas Online.
“There is an agenda to silence us, to silence those of us who believe in what is right, those of us who have these deeply held convictions," Duggar told the crowd. "Let me tell you, they're taking away your right to speak. And I call on the Arkansas Supreme Court to stand with the people and to honor their vote."
The rally was organized by the Arkansas Family Council, whose executive directory, Jerry Cox, said it focused on the state Supreme Court because its justices are elected.
In August, plaintiffs in Wright v. Arkansas filed a motion asking Supreme Court justices to recuse themselves if they are up for re-election, after conservative state lawmakers threatened retaliation against those who side with marriage equality. But that motion was rejected.
Cox reiterated those threats on Wednesday, according to Arkansas News.
“It’s because the judges are way out of line, and the people know that,” he said.
"Every time the people have had the chance to vote on marriage, almost every time, they define it as the union of a man and a woman," Cox told Arkansas Online. "But when the courts get involved, it's almost like referees running onto the field saying, 'Let's change the score, we don't like the outcome.'"
Also attending the rally were a few dozen supporters of marriage equality. One carried a sign that said, "Charles Manson has the right to marry and gay couples don't."
Another, Caleb Alexander of Monticello, thoroughly dismantled Cox's argument and the theme of the rally, according to Arkansas News.
“The judges, they’re not elected to uphold a vote. They’re elected to uphold the Constitution,” Alexander said. “The Constitution says that equal rights are not subject to a vote. The majority can’t legislate to a minority. I think a lot of the speeches sounded like a speech made in 1942 before desegregation."
Watch KARK Channel 4's report, AFTER THE JUMP ...
UPDATE: Oral arguments in the Arkansas Supreme Court case have begun and are being live-streammed here.