Arkansas mulls constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage
February 21 2004 1:00 AM ET
The Arkansas attorney general's office is considering whether to put on the November ballot a proposed amendment to the state's constitution strictly defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman. The initiative would prohibit the state from conferring marital status or the status of civil union to any unmarried people not entitled to such status under federal law or the U.S. Constitution.
Little Rock lawyer Robert Shafer filed the popular name and ballot title of the proposed Amendment Concerning Marriage and Civil Union on February 13 with the state attorney general's office on behalf of an organization that he declined to name Thursday. "It's based on the wording of the Federal Marriage Amendment, which is under consideration in Congress," Shafer said. "There is a sponsoring organization, which will be a ballot committee. They will make an announcement at a later date."
State law requires the attorney general's office to review and determine the legality of a ballot initiative's proper name and ballot title. The attorney general may certify, reject or instruct petitioners to redesign the proposed measure in a manner that would not be misleading to voters. "Until it's approved by the attorney general, changes are possible," Shafer said.
Arkansas is one of 34 states that has enacted so-called defense of marriage acts into law. In its ruling, the Massachusetts high court said only a constitutional amendment could ban same-sex marriages. Approval by the attorney general's office would free backers to begin gathering signatures to put the proposed anti-gay marriage amendment on this year's general election ballot.