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Arkansas county clerk to resign over same-sex marriage

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- A county clerk in Arkansas announced plans to resign effective Tuesday, saying she has a moral objection to issuing same-sex marriage licenses.

Cleburne County Clerk Dana Guffey said she met with County Judge Jerry Holmes early Monday to notify him of her intent to resign. No staff in her office had yet received any requests for a same-sex marriage license by mid-afternoon Monday, following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling Friday legalizing gay marriages nationwide.

"It is definitely a moral conviction for me," Guffey said. "I didn't announce anything publicly or on social media or anything because I didn't want my decision to be seen as hateful. I know some people will look at it like that, but this wasn't easy. It wasn't a decision I made lightly. And I do not hate anybody."

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Holmes was in a meeting Monday and did not immediately return calls from The Associated Press for comment. He issued a notice that he has called an emergency meeting of the Cleburne County Quorum Court for Tuesday to address the resignation and discuss interim options. The area is about 65 miles north of Little Rock.

Guffey said leaving the elected office she's held for more than 24 years will be difficult.

"My officemates understand," she said. "They're not judging me, the same as I'm not judging anyone else who issues the licenses. It's my conviction, though."

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Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued a statement Friday directing government offices to follow the ruling and urging those seeking marriage licenses to be patient as the office figures out how to move forward. Rutledge's spokesman Judd Deere said Monday that her opinion remains that the clerks must follow the law.

"The Supreme Court has issued a decision, and that decision must be followed," he wrote in an email. "As the attorney general advised last week, Arkansas county clerks should issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples upon request, requiring exactly the same procedures, fees and other requirements as required for opposite-sex couples."

Deere said that the clerks should be aware that legislation passed this year could help clear some of the moral dilemma for the clerks who have expressed concerns. Act 1127, sponsored by Sen. Missy Irvin, a Republican whose district includes Cleburne County, says that clerks do not have to sign marriage licenses in order for them to become effective.

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The law, which did not have an emergency clause, will go into effect July 22.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Monday that issuing a marriage license is not discretionary for clerks, regardless of personal beliefs.

"This is up for every county clerk to determine under their own conscience. What I mean by that is they have a duty to follow the law," Hutchinson said. "Obviously, if someone cannot follow that duty, that's a decision for them to make."

Representatives from the Association of Arkansas Counties and the Association of County Clerks said they were unaware Monday afternoon of any other clerks planning to resign.