LITTLE ROCK — Last week’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that made gay marriage legal nationwide does not affect private individuals or churches, Gov. Asa Hutchinson reiterated Thursday, after state House and Senate Republicans issued statements pledging to pass legislation to protect people and churches from the ruling’s impact.

LITTLE ROCK — Last week’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that made gay marriage legal nationwide does not affect private individuals or churches, Gov. Asa Hutchinson reiterated Thursday, after state House and Senate Republicans issued statements pledging to pass legislation to protect people and churches from the ruling’s impact.


On Tuesday, the Republican House Caucus issued a statement, written by House Majority Leader Ken Bragg, R-Sheridan, that read in part:


"We refuse to simply shrug our shoulders and abandon basic principles that have guided our country successfully the past 239 years. We will work with other conservative leaders in our state and across the nation, strengthen the bonds of unity, and explore all available options. That certainly includes increased legislative protections for our First Amendment freedoms to exercise religion."


On Thursday, the Republican Senate Caucus said in a statement, written by Senate Majority Leader Jim Hendren, R-Gravette, and signed by all 24 Republican senators, that it would be "drafting legislation to ensure the rights of churches, pastors, and religious schools and institutions will not be infringed upon."


"We will pass legislation in Arkansas to ensure that these organizations may choose not to participate in or host marriages that violate their religious beliefs," Hendren wrote.


The Senate Republicans’ statement also included a pledge to "insure that tax exempt or non-profit status will not be affected in any way by exercising their 1st Amendment rights and teaching their beliefs about traditional marriage. We will also ensure that necessary protections exist in statute to protect county clerks from being forced to violate their religious beliefs about marriage in the performance of their duties."


Hutchinson, a former U.S. attorney for the Western District of Arkansas, said on the day the Supreme Court handed down its decision that the ruling does not require pastors and churches to recognize same-sex marriage. In a statement Thursday, Hutchinson said he appreciated continued efforts by the Legislature to protect religious freedoms but added:


"It is important to note that it affects government action only. It has no bearing on private individuals or institutions. The ability of pastors, churches, and private individuals to follow their own convictions on marriage is protected under the First Amendment and has not been affected by the Supreme Court’s ruling. In terms of further legislative action, I am not aware of any legislation that would protect county clerks from the requirements of the ruling."


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.


"I am committed to ensuring the rights of pastors, religious institutions, and private individuals to exercise their freedom of conscience," Hutchinson said Thursday. "It is my view that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act passed earlier this year accomplishes this purpose. Regardless, it is very important that our church leaders who have convictions on the definition of marriage understand that I will work every day to protect their right of conscience and freedoms under the 1st Amendment."


The governor said there will be many future challenges as 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," he said.