LITTLE ROCK — An Arkansas gay rights group on Thursday submitted the wording for a proposed ballot measure that would repeal the 2004 constitutional amendment that banned same-sex marriage in the state.
Arkansans for Equality submitted its proposal a day after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Clinton-era Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman. The ruling makes same-sex married couples eligible for federal benefits, but the nation’s highest court left it to individual states to decide who can marry.
The justices, in a separate but related case, cleared the way for same-sex marriage in California without establishing a constitutional right for gays to marry in all states.
Judd Mann, spokesman for Arkansans for Equality, said his group submitted its proposal to Attorney General Dustin McDaniel’s office Thursday morning. Certification of a ballot initiative’s name and title is required before a group can begin gathering the requisite number of signatures to place the measure on the general election ballot.
“Our goal is to see equality for all Arkansans,” Mann said.
Arkansans for Equality’s proposal would not authorize same-sex marriage in Arkansas. If the measure were to get on the ballot and be approved by voters in November 2014, Mann said his group would then work on another ballot proposal to legalize gay marriage in Arkansas.
“That is our ultimate goal,” he said.
Jerry Cox, president of the Christian conservative group Family Council, did not immediately return a call seeking comment Thursday.
Family Council helped spearhead the drive that garnered 75 percent of the vote in 2004 for Amendment 83, which defines marriage as only between one man and one woman. It bans gay marriage and civil unions in Arkansas.
Mann said his group was confident the U.S. Supreme Court would rule favorably for gay rights activists in its decisions Wednesday and timed submission of its proposal accordingly.
“We had read enough analysis and the lawyers who advised agreed, it was also her opinion that the justices would rule this way,” he said.
If the proposal is certified by the attorney general, Arkansans for Equality would have to gather 78,133 signatures of registered voters by July 7, 2014, to get the proposal on next year’s general election ballot.