LITTLE ROCK — A former Arkansas Supreme Court justice says the court voted last year to strike down a state ban on same-sex marriage but never issued the ruling, waiting instead until the U.S. Supreme Court made gay marriage legal nationwide in June.

LITTLE ROCK — A former Arkansas Supreme Court justice says the court voted last year to strike down a state ban on same-sex marriage but never issued the ruling, waiting instead until the U.S. Supreme Court made gay marriage legal nationwide in June.

Former Justice Donald Corbin, whose term on the court ended Dec. 31, discussed the case in an interview that was posted to the state Supreme Court’s website as part of an oral history project and was first reported on Tuesday by the Arkansas Times.

Corbin also said he considered citing a state senator for contempt for attempting to contact the court and influence its decision and said he received threats over the case.

The issue reached the state’s top court when the attorney general’s office appealed a May 2014 ruling by Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza that Arkansas’ 2004 constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman violated the state and U.S. constitutions.

"Very obviously, as far as from a political standpoint, it was a very hot issue," Corbin said in the interview. "We were seeing polls taken showing that a vast majority of the people in Arkansas were opposed to same-sex marriage. It wasn’t one any of us were looking forward to getting."

Corbin said Piazza did "a very courageous thing" in deciding the case.

"He knew, when he made the decision, it was going to be unpopular with a lot of people. But he saw it as a matter of law, and he had a responsibility as a trial judge to call it like the law indicated," he said.

In June 2014, the Arkansas Legislative Council adopted a resolution by Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Conway, urging the state Supreme Court to overturn Piazza’s ruling.

"My law clerk caught it and wouldn’t let me see it because she saw that as being … an ex-parte communication," Corbin said.

An ex-parte communication is a communication from a party in a case, or someone involved with a party in a case, to the judge without the other party’s knowledge.

"I thought very seriously about finding him in contempt, but I was talked out of it by the more reasonable members of the court, (Chief Justice Jim) Hannah and Paul Danielson. I wish I had gone on and done it now," Corbin said.

Contacted for comment Tuesday, Rapert said the resolution was supported by many Democrats and said Corbin took an oath to uphold the Arkansas Constitution, "which plainly states that marriage is between one man and one woman."

"I have no ill will towards Judge Corbin and hope he enjoys retirement, but after reading his comments regarding the same-sex marriage issue, he should be the poster-child for judicial term limits and the reason we need to properly vet candidates for judicial positions in our state," Rapert said. "The people of Arkansas and the people of the United States are fed up with judicial activism, rulings that degrade decency and morality in our country, and judges who have no respect for the co-equal branches of government."

Corbin also said others sent letters to the court about the case, including the Christian conservative Family Council.

"They had all these churchgoing folks writing us and calling us and what have you," he said. "I got some threats. But I’d had those down through the years. What I worried about was whether my family was in danger in any way."

The court granted a motion for expedited consideration in October 2014 and heard oral arguments the following month.

Corbin said the court voted 5-2 to uphold Piazza’s ruling on both state and federal constitutional grounds. He said he wrote an opinion for the majority, but no dissenting opinion was written, and by the time his term ended no ruling had been issued.

Former Gov. Mike Beebe had appointed Robert McCorkindale as a special justice in the case after Justice Cliff Hoofman recused. Beebe left office in January, and in April the court created a separate case to consider whether McCorkindale should be allowed to continue participating in the case and whether two newly elected justices, Rhonda Wood and Robin Wynne, should participate.

Ultimately, the court decided that Wood and Wynne should participate and McCorkindale should not. Corbin said that historically, when a governor has made an appointment to a case, the appointee has stayed on the case until it was decided.

"They changed that," he said. "Looking back, old courts would not have, because they would honor the separation-of-powers doctrine. That’s a governor’s deal. But they had the votes."

On the same day that the U.S. Supreme Court made gay marriage legal nationwide, the Arkansas Supreme Court dismissed the state case as moot, declining to address the question of whether the ban violated the state constitution.

Corbin said that while he was on the court he favored striking down the ban both on state and federal grounds.

"Call me a purist. I couldn’t see having the U.S. Constitution saying that’s unconstitutional, depriving people of their rights, and we have something in writing still in our state constitution that’s in conflict with that," he said.