On Wednesday afternoon, the Arkansas Supreme Court put a significant dent in County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza's order overturning the state's gay marriage ban. Although the high court denied the state's request to stay the previous ruling—meaning marriage equality technically remains the law of the land—it also noted that Piazza failed to invalidate a separate statute prohibiting clerks from providing marriage licenses to same-sex couple. According to the court, so long as this provision remains in effect, gay marriage will remain effectively banned, and so the state has no justification for an emergency stay.
That, however, is unlikely to last long. Plaintiffs in the case have vowed to return to Judge Piazza's courtroom and ask that the remaining provision be struck down. The judge, whose original ruling was a full-throated endorsement of gay people's constitutional right to marriage, is almost certain to acquiesce—meaning the case will travel right back up to the state Supreme Court. At that point, the justices might put a stop to all gay marriages in the state until they can rule on the merits. But given the recent trend of judges permitting gay marriages to continue as an overturned ban is appealed, it's equally likely that the justices will err on the side of equality. Either way, this case—like so many others before the courts right now—may well be headed to the U.S. Supreme Court, where Justice Anthony Kennedy can answer the gay marriage question once and for all.