LITTLE ROCK — The Arkansas Senate on Tuesday approved two measures it previously rejected calling for a convention of states to amend the U.S. Constitution to ban gay marriage and abortion nationwide.
Senate Joint Resolution 7 and SJR 9, both by Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Bigelow, go next to the House. They require approval of both chambers but do not require action by the governor, and the governor would not have power to veto them.
SJR 7 calls for Arkansas to request a convention of states to propose a constitutional amendment “prohibiting the United States Constitution or the constitutions or laws of any state from defining or construing the definition of ‘marriage’ to mean other than the union of one man and one woman.”
The resolution passed in an 18-9 vote, receiving the exact number of votes needed for passage in the 35-member Senate. The vote was party-line, with Republicans voting for it and Democrats against.
SJR 9 would request a convention to propose an amendment “providing that every human being from the moment of conception is a person and entitled to the right to life.”
That measure passed 19-9 in another party-line vote, with Sen. Trent Garner, R-El Dorado, who did not vote on SJR 7, casing a vote for SJR 9.
The Senate previously considered both bills on Feb. 20, but at that time both fell one vote short of passing. Sen. Bryan King, R-Green Forest, was not in the chamber that day, and Sen. Ronald Caldwell, R-Wynne, declined to vote on SJR 9 at that time but voted for it Tuesday.
Under Article 5 of the U.S. Constitution, 34 states would have to call for a constitutional convention for one to be held. A proposed amendment would have to be ratified by 38 states to become part of the Constitution.
Rapert said after the vote Tuesday, “The simple fact of the matter is these amendments are necessary, and the Article 5 approach is necessary because with the federal judiciary out of control and overruling the will of the people on those issues, this is the only political option that we have left.”
Rapert was the sponsor of a 2013 law that banned most abortions at 16 weeks or later into a pregnancy. Most of the law was struck down by a federal appeals court in 2015, but a provision requiring a woman who seeks an abortion at 16 weeks or later to receive an ultrasound to check for a fetal heartbeat was left standing.