LITTLE ROCK — Supporters of a proposed ballot measure to repeal Arkansas’ 2004 constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in the state got the go-ahead Thursday to begin collecting signatures in an effort to get the measure on the 2014 ballot.
Attorney General Dustin McDaniel certified the name and ballot title of the proposal by Arkansans for Equality. In his opinion, McDaniel emphasized the proposal would not legalize same-sex marriage in Arkansas but would "revive the General Assembly’s authority to pass such laws relating to same-sex marriage as it deems appropriate."
Judd Mann, co-chairman of Arkansans for Equality, said Thursday the organization’s board would meet soon to begin planning for a petition drive.
"Time is of the essence," he said, adding that the current plan is for the signatures to be gathered by volunteers rather than paid canvassers.
"We want the community to be involved," Mann said.
Supporters of the proposed constitutional amendment must submit 78,133 valid signatures from registered voters to the secretary of state’s office by July 7, 2014, to qualify the proposal for the 2014 general election ballot.
Jerry Cox, president of the Family Council, the organization that led the fight for Amendment 83 in 2004, said he does not believe Arkansans would vote to repeal the amendment considering it received 75 percent of the vote just nine years ago. He said recent polls show voters still strongly support the amendment.
Cox said his organization would oppose any measure on the ballot that would repeal the law.
Approval of the measure, Cox said, would "open the door for lawsuits to legalize same-sex marriages throughout the state."
Two lawsuits challenging Amendment 83 are pending, one in Pulaski County Circuit Court and another in federal court in Little Rock.
"Are we taking this seriously? Absolutely we are," Cox said. "It’s a serious thing to try to legalize same-sex marriage and we are going to oppose this effort; however, they are a long way from actually passing this measure."
Also Thursday, the attorney general rejected the wording of a proposed ballot initiative that would amend the state constitution to allow same-sex marriage.
The Arkansas Marriage Equality Amendment, submitted by Jack Weir III and Christopher Jacks of Maumelle, would "recognize that a marriage is legally recognized as a union of two people regardless of whether the parties to the marriage are the same sex or different sex."
Members of the clergy and religious organizations would be be allowed to refuse to perform ceremonies or provide facilities under the proposed amendment.
McDaniel, in his opinion rejecting the proposal, said there were deficiencies in the ballot title and in the proposal’s text, including that it "makes no attempt to summarize for the voter what effect (the) proposal would have on existing law."
The attorney general also rejected the popular name and ballot title of a proposed initiated act that would prohibit corporate spending in Arkansas elections.
Submitted by a coalition of groups, including Regnat Populus, which worked with lawmakers during the legislative session to get an election reform measure on the 2014 ballot, the proposal would restrict corporate political expenditures in Arkansas elections.
McDaniel said there were inconsistencies in the proposal as well as ambiguities.