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Officiating weddings discussed

Crawford County Justices of the Peace discussed officiating weddings during their regular meeting Monday night.

Crawford County Quorum Court members heard a report from JP Lloyd Cole about the annual Arkansas Association of Quorum Courts Governing Body he attended meeting April 26 in Little Rock.

One topic discussed at the meeting was justices’ duty in officiating weddings in regards to the possible lift of the ban on same-sex marriage in Arkansas, Cole said.

Cole told JPs that if the ban is lifted, they will retain the right to refuse to marry a same-sex couple if they “don’t agree with it.”

“That was discussed and we were told that you don’t have to do a wedding if you don’t want to,” Cole said.

Justices have the option to refuse to officiate a wedding for any reason and not risk litigation, Cole said after the meeting.

“JPs are not required to do weddings by virtue of being a JP,” Cole said.

Cole also told JPs that though they cannot charge a fee for performing a wedding, they can accept tips under $100 if they want, and it must be reported as income.

There was a question of term length for JPs, but it will remain at two years, while sheriff’s terms may increase to four years to match term length of judges and prosecutors.

Arkansas’ “jail crisis,” that being the overcrowding in the state detention center and most county jails because of the state’s backlog of criminals, was discussed during the state meeting, Cole said.

While state officials are admitting that counties do not receive enough money for the state convicts being held in county jails, there is no money in the state budget to allow more to go to counties, Cole said. No solution is being offered for the overcrowding problem, he said.

“So, once again, it’s falling back on the counties,” Cole said.

While the jail tax issue was not discussed in length during the CCQC meeting Monday, County Judge John Hall did tell JPs that regardless of whether the tax is passed or not, he and the sheriff will continue to do their best with the jail and work to “keep people safe.”

He did tell JPs that early voting at the Crawford County Emergency Operations Center has been a “big success,” with almost no lines forming even on the busiest days.

Hall noted that there will be several personnel meetings coming up in June to deal with other county issues that have been on the sidelines in recent months, including employee insurance.

“We’re going to have to discuss a lot of things for the future of this county and the direction we want the county to go,” Hall said.

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