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Arkansas attorney general approves marriage equality ballot language

LGBT Legal Cases Marriage equality

Arkansas state sealArkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel has approved language for a ballot initiative to repeal the state’s anti-gay marriage amendment and replace it with one affirming the right of couples to marry regardless of their sex. The initiative’s language has been rejected several times previously. McDaniel had, however approved a separate initiative earlier this year which would only remove anti-gay language from the constitution without ensuring that same-sex couples could marry.

LGBT activists in the state say that they will work to get the earlier-approved amendment on the ballot next year, while the one approved yesterday wouldn’t reach voters until 2016 if enough signatures are collected:

The proposal approved Thursday would also repeal the marriage amendment, which was approved by voters in 2004, and would instead recognize marriage as a “union between two people regardless of sex.” It would also prohibit county clerks from denying marriage licenses to couples based on their sex. Under the measure, clergy and religious organizations would not be obligated to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies.

Weir said he planned to help the group trying to get the gay marriage ban repeal on the ballot next year while also gathering support for his 2016 proposal. McDaniel had rejected earlier versions of Weir’s proposal because it didn’t address the ban currently in the constitution.

“It’s going to take a lot of effort from our people and the newcomers we’ll have in the next three years,” he said. “I see people’s hearts and minds changing every time we go to an event and talk to people. I see a big change coming in Arkansas.”

State and federal court challenges to the anti-gay marriage amendment have been filed as well.

The attorney general’s opinion approving the new language is here.


  • 1. Rik  |  November 8, 2013 at 11:15 am

    I feel like we should focus our time and money on the states where we have a legitimate chance of winning before we hit the south. Victories build momentum and losses take it away

  • 2. Klien  |  November 11, 2013 at 5:20 am

    I AGREE COMPLETELY! One state loss at the ballot will energize conservative talking points being able to go on every national media show and say "LOOK the country is clearly not as ready for this as media spins"…but if we keep our focus on states we're winning, we have the narrative and upper hand. Focus on Oregon, Ohio, Colorado, and Nevada for the time being

  • 3. Anthony  |  November 8, 2013 at 11:29 am

    The change will come through the US Supreme Court, not voters in Arkansas. The national groups won't back the effort and they will be forced to drop it.

  • 4. Bruno71  |  November 8, 2013 at 11:38 am

    On a similar topic, why is the Oregon legislature making the initiative come from voters instead of sending it to the ballot themselves? Surely Oregon's legislature is pro-equality? It would have saved a lot of money and work.

  • 5. Dr. Z  |  November 8, 2013 at 2:26 pm

    That was a conscious decision from Basic Rights Oregon. They wanted to enter the campaign with a demonstration of grassroots support. The signature campaign is also a way to get a volunteer network established, as well as a fundraising network. It's also an opportunity to start outreach. The Oregon LGBT has a lot of experience with these campaigns – Scott Lively formerly lived in this state, and he and his fellow bigot Lon Mabon forced us to defend against ballot initiatives in 1988, 1992, 1994, 2000, and 2004. The DOMA initiative is one of the few we lost. In 2004 Oregon was the one state where it was thought we might defeat a DOMA initiative, but the tide was too great that year. It passed with 57% of the vote.

  • 6. Eric Koszyk  |  November 8, 2013 at 12:10 pm

    Anyone here from Arkansas? Please don't answer my next set of questions unless you are either from AR or have a good grasp of the local politics there:

    How would a Clinton presidential run affect turnout in AR? Does she have even a chance of winning the state like her husband did or is AR gone for a generation?

    How might her run and her support for such an initiative affect the outcome of this?

  • 7. bythesea  |  November 10, 2013 at 4:00 pm

    Not from AR, but do follow a lot of relevant election analysis. The consensus generally seems to be that HRC would make the state more competitive and she'd get a higher vote percentage than Obama did, but likely still fall short of winning it against a generic Republican in 2016. God knows who the GOP will actually nominate though.

  • 8. martinmonday  |  November 11, 2013 at 10:09 am

    I don't live in AR now, but I grew up there and all of my family live there so I still visit a lot.

    I think the biggest hurdle for Hilary is that she's a woman. Most men that I know (and many women) don't believe that a woman should be president, regardless of what initiatives she supports.

  • 9. Bruno71  |  November 8, 2013 at 1:47 pm

    Makes for a good argument. Thanks for the link.

  • 10. Dr. Z  |  November 8, 2013 at 2:18 pm

    Yes that's true, but things are changing fast. What seems too soon now may seem timid in four years.

    We've been so conditioned as a community to be cautious and fearful of backlash that it's hard sometimes to accept that the country really is changing.

  • 11. Bruno71  |  November 8, 2013 at 2:31 pm

    Change is coming fast, but even Nate Silver's accelerated models won't put Arkansas in the win column by 2016. It just happens to possibly be the most homophobic state in the country, if not in the top 5.

  • 12. KarlS  |  November 8, 2013 at 2:54 pm

    I think Oklahoma beats them in that category…and others. For example, I believe we were the only state with every single county voting for Romney in the last election. If that's not right, sorry I just seem to remember it.

  • 13. Bruno71  |  November 8, 2013 at 3:39 pm

    That is correct. However polling has shown that marriage equality support is lowest in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, & Alabama.

  • 14. Dr. Z  |  November 9, 2013 at 5:39 am

    Yes, I was in Oklahoma visiting my family just a couple of weeks ago and it started before we could even get out of the airport: "That can't be your spouse, you're two men." There's a reason I left for the west coast as soon as I was old enough.

    The Gov of Oklahoma is crazy even for a teabagger.

  • 15. Dr. Z  |  November 8, 2013 at 2:55 pm

    Oh, it's downright liberal compared to some of its neighboring states. Arkansas at least elects Democrats on occasion. But I agree it's an extremely unlikely equality state.

  • 16. Bruno71  |  November 8, 2013 at 3:40 pm

    Arkansas has a long history with the Democratic Party, which has been eroding fast as of late. It has nothing to do with being liberal, especially on social issues. The Democrats there are just pandering centrists (like, um, some Clinton guy).

  • 17. Zack12  |  November 9, 2013 at 2:04 pm

    Arkansas might have been Democratic but it was always of the Blue Dog variety for the most part.
    Not a shocker to see as the country becomes more polarized that the Blue Dogs would slowly become Republicans.

  • 18. Straight Ally #3008  |  November 8, 2013 at 3:44 pm

    I just dread the cartwheels that NOM will be doing when something goes their way after such a long drought. Hopefully no constitutional ban goes forward in Indiana, or if it does may it be shot down.

  • 19. Anthony  |  November 8, 2013 at 4:08 pm

    It's possible we can also file a federal lawsuit to have it removed from the ballot if they passed it based on the Windsor ruling.

  • 20. Eric Koszyk  |  November 9, 2013 at 6:26 am

    Thank you for letting us know. I guess I was incorrect though I could have sworn that's what I've been told by people still there in OR.

  • 21. Dann from Dallas  |  November 9, 2013 at 8:04 am

    Eric, by the time 2016 rolls around the Clintons will have not lived in Arkansas for nearly 26 years. The Clintons being from Arkansas 26 years prior will have no bearing on the outcome of the election in 2016. IMO

  • 22. SoCal_Dave  |  November 9, 2013 at 8:18 am

    This brings up some of the same questions as campaigns in FL and AZ
    though it seems that the AR campaign is sincere, it may have some of the same effects

  • 23. grod  |  November 9, 2013 at 10:29 am

    Anthony, would it be useful to see change coming through the Circuit Courts. For instance, How many states are under the jurisdiction of the 9th Circuit? Nevada's Sevcik v. Sandoval tests the validity of a constitutional amendment, approved by the people and also tests the validity of marriages from elsewhere. The favourable "elsewhere" determination (precedent ) may include an review on Section 2 of DOMA. Nice, if the USA Supremes knocks off Section 2. Nice if all the states in the 9th Circuit were required to acknowledge marriages from elsewhere. Nice is another People's initiative ( 2002) gets overturned.

  • 24. Chuck in PA  |  November 10, 2013 at 3:31 pm

    9th Circuit has a very large area of authority. Alaska, Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Idaho, Montana, and Arizona. Plus Guam and the Northern Marianas.

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