Same-sex marriage debate heats up from Alaska to Arkansas

Since the Supreme Court last year evaded the issue of whether same-sex couples have a right to get married, the debate over same-sex marriage has continued at the state level. Just this week, a federal judge overturned Idaho's ban on same-sex marriage and arguments over the issue were brought to court in Virginia, Arkansas and Alaska.

In Idaho, U.S. District Magistrate Judge Candy Dale ruled Tuesday that the state's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.

Dale said the state must begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples beginning at 9 a.m. Friday. Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter has said he intends to appeal the case, meaning an appeals court could put those weddings on hold.

In Virginia on Tuesday, a panel of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments in a case challenging Virginia's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. One of the judges, The Washington Post reported, acknowledged that the court is effectively serving as a "way station" for the case before it makes it to the U.S. Supreme Court. While lawyers for both sides made their case, hundreds of demonstrators congregated outside of the Richmond court.

A district judge ruled in February that the constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage in Virginia, which voters approved in 2006, violates the U.S. Constitution.

In Arkansas on Tuesday, the plaintiffs challenging the state ban on same-sex marriage asked the state Supreme Court to let same-sex marriages proceed, now that a circuit judge has struck down the ban.

Some Arkansas counties began issuing same-sex marriage licenses on Monday, after Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza ruled Friday that Arkansas' constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman did not pass constitutional muster. However, later on Monday, the state attorney general's office asked the state Supreme Court to stay the ruling. So on Tuesday, the Times Record reported, the plaintiffs made the case that gay couples would suffer if the ruling were stayed because they would once again be deprived of the benefits of marriage.

Arkansas is the first Southern state to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples, but not every county in the state is going along with the ruling. Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe said Tuesday that the state Supreme Court must clarify whether county clerks are obligated to issue same-sex marriage licenses.

At least one Republican state lawmaker said he will attempt to impeach Piazza for his same-sex marriage ruling, the City Wire reported.

Meanwhile, in Alaska on Monday, a group of same-sex couples filed a suit against the state's same-sex marriage ban, the Anchorage Daily News said.

Seventeen states and the District of Columbia currently have laws allowing same-sex marriage.