Legislative resolution opposing ruling on gay marriage blocked in procedural vote


LITTLE ROCK — A proposed resolution urging the Arkansas Supreme Court to overturn a circuit judge’s ruling striking down Arkansas’ same-sex marriage ban was defeated in a procedural vote Friday in the state Legislative Council.

Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Conway, asked the council to suspend its rules so it could vote on the resolution even though the matter was not on the agenda for Friday’s meeting. The vote on suspending the rules failed, so the council did not vote on the resolution.

The procedural vote was 26-11, but Co-Chairman Rep. John Edwards, D-Little Rock, ruled that Rapert’s motion failed because it needed two-thirds majorities of both the House members and the Senate members present and it failed to get support from two-thirds of the Senate members.

Rep. Greg Leding, D-Fayetteville, had asked that the vote be split between House and Senate members. Rapert protested that the motion was not properly made and recognized, but Edwards overruled him.

Rapert told reporters later he will have the resolution placed on the agenda for a future meeting of the council so the resolution can be adopted with a simple majority vote.

The proposal Rapert presented Friday expressed support for Arkansas’ constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman and asserted that Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza “overstepped his judicial authority” in striking down the amendment, which voters overwhelmingly approved in 2004.

The state Supreme Court stayed Piazza’s May 9 ruling on Friday, pending an appeal. By that time several hundred marriage licenses had been issued to same-sex couples in the state.

The proposed resolution also encouraged the Supreme Court to reverse the ruling and advocated exploring legislative remedies to prevent “judicial activism.” The names of 40 legislators were attached, including 34 Republicans and six Democrats.

Rapert told reporters after the vote, “The people of Arkansas — I’ve gotten calls even this morning, emails — they don’t like what Judge Piazza has done. And they’re not going to like what Rep. Edwards has done here today either.”

Leding, the House minority leader, told reporters, “I think it’s become clear when you watch these bans in other states fall that our country as a whole is slowly moving toward equality for all, and I’m just tired of Arkansas being on the lagging end of those kinds of movements. I just would prefer that the Legislature not waste its time with this kind of political theater.”

House Speaker Davy Carter, R-Cabot, was the only Republican to vote against suspending the rules Friday. He later said in a statement, “Whether or not our state’s constitutional amendment runs afoul of the United States Constitution is a question for our highest court. Judicial intimidation by the legislative branch is not appropriate in this instance or any other.”

During the 2013 legislative session, the House and Senate adopted resolutions declaring support for the federal Defense of Marriage Act. A few months later, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a provision of that law defining marriage as between a man and a woman.