LITTLE ROCK — Arkansans on both sides of the gay rights issue say there are still battles to be fought in the state in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriage.

LITTLE ROCK — Arkansans on both sides of the gay rights issue say there are still battles to be fought in the state in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriage.


Last week, the state Republican House and Senate caucuses issued separate statements voicing disapproval of the court’s ruling that made same-sex marriage legal nationwide and pledging to pursue legislation to protect what they see as religious freedoms.


Groups that support gay rights said they would push for other rights beyond marriage.


In a statement written by Senate Majority Leader Jim Hendren, R-Gravette, the Republican Senate Caucus said last week it would "be drafting legislation to ensure the rights of churches, pastors, and religious schools and institutions will not be infringed upon."


Earlier this year, the Arkansas Legislature passed a law to prohibit the state from burdening a person’s practice of religion unless doing so is essential to further a compelling government interest and the state uses the least restrictive means of furthering that interest. Hendren said in an interview last week that the Legislature may need to revisit the issue.


"We may need to strengthen the religious freedom law, we may need to add some additional statutes," he said.


Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a former U.S. attorney for the Western District of Arkansas, responded to the House and Senate Republicans’ statements with a statement Thursday reiterating that the ruling on gay marriage "has no bearing on private individuals or institutions," a point he made on the day the ruling was issued.


Hutchinson also said he believed Arkansas’ Religious Freedom Restoration Act had accomplished its purpose of establishing in state law "the rights of pastors, religious institutions, and private individuals to exercise their freedom of conscience."


But Hutchinson added, "There will be many future challenges as a result of the Supreme Court decision. I will continue to determine what legislative action is needed to address the myriad of legal issues that will result from the ruling and also what legislation is needed to protect the churches, pastors and religious institutions who cannot follow the dictates of the court."


Hendren, Hutchinson’s nephew, said senators do not yet know what legislation they might propose.


"We’ve got several folks who are working on different ideas now. We didn’t want to get into the specifics; we just wanted folks out there in Arkansas to understand that in the Legislature — at least on the Senate side, and I know the House feels similar — we’re going to work to protect people’s right to practice their religion as they see fit," he said.


Meanwhile, Arkansas groups that support equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people say the legalization of same-sex marriage, though hugely important, has never been their only goal.


"Honestly, this is just the first step. There are so many others," said Judd Mann, spokesman for Arkansans for Equality.


"There’s job protection, because you can be fired for being gay in Arkansas. There’s housing protection, because you can be evicted from your apartment if you’re gay in Arkansas," he said. "We have an incredible problem with LGBT bullying in our school system."


Kendra Johnson, Arkansas director of the Human Rights Campaign, said that group will seek to amend Arkansas’ civil rights law to include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes. State Rep. Greg Leding, D-Fayetteville, filed a bill to that effect during this year’s regular legislative session, but the bill failed to gain traction.


Johnson said the Human Rights Campaign also will oppose any future "religious freedom" legislation that protects discrimination. She said the notion that the ruling on gay marriage affects churches and pastors is "a huge misconception."


"No clergy is ever obliged to marry anyone," she said.


Tippi McCullough, president of the Stonewall Democratic Caucus of Arkansas, said the caucus has been and will continue supporting anti-discrimination ordinances in cities and counties across the state.


Little Rock, North Little Rock, Pulaski County, Conway, Marvell, Eureka Springs and Hot Springs have passed ordinances that offer varying levels of protection to LGBT people. Fayetteville is set to vote on a proposed anti-discrimination ordinance on Sept. 8, after repealing an earlier one last year.


The ordinances "are steps to full equality," McCullough said.


The Legislature this year passed a law banning cities and counties from passing ordinances that prohibit discrimination on any basis not in state law. Whether the local ordinances passed in the wake of that law will stand is a question that may someday be decided in court.


Mann said Arkansas for Equality, which was founded primarily to support same-sex marriage, will hold a board meeting to decide what its next priorities will be — after the members are done celebrating the Supreme Court ruling.


"We’re so stinkin’ happy," he said.