Jack Wagoner, attorney who challenged Arkansas' same-sex marriage ban, dies

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Attorney Jack Wagoner, who helped successfully challenge Arkansas' ban on same-sex marriage before state and federal courts, has died. He was 62.

Wagoner died in Little Rock on Tuesday, said Bruce Tennant, an attorney who worked with him at his law firm. Tennant said a cause of death was not yet known.

Wagoner represented same-sex couples who challenged a constitutional amendment that Arkansas voters put in the state's constitution in 2004 defining marriage as between a man and a woman. A state judge in 2014 struck down the amendment as unconstitutional, which led to more than 500 same-sex couples marrying before the Arkansas Supreme Court put the ruling on hold.

The state Supreme Court didn't rule on whether the ban was constitutional before the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage nationwide in 2015. A federal judge also struck down Arkansas' ban, but put her ruling on hold.

At the time of the rulings, Wagoner predicted that gay marriage would eventually be legal nationwide.

“It’s pretty clear where history’s heading on this issue," Wagoner said.

Cheryl Maples, an attorney who had also represented the couples, died in 2019.

Tennant said the same-sex marriage case was an example of the types he focused on. Wagoner had also working on cases involving nursing home neglect and abuse.

“He always wanted to fight for the little guy,” Tennant said.

Wagoner was also one of the attorneys who represented a divorced Arkansas man who had been prohibited from having overnight visitation with his child in the presence of his long-term domestic partner. The state Supreme Court in 2013 reversed that decision.

Wagoner is survived by his wife and two daughters.