Arkansas's proposed ban on gay marriage could face legal challenge

BY admin

August 27 2004 12:00 AM ET

Organizers of a proposed state constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage in Arkansas said Thursday they are prepared for an effort to knock the measure off the November ballot.

The Arkansas chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union scheduled a morning news conference to announce a legal challenge to the proposal, which in addition to specifying that marriage is a union between a man and a woman would also ban same-sex civil unions.

"I'm not surprised. That seems to be the primary way of operating by the people who oppose these efforts," Arkansas Marriage Amendment Committee president Jerry Cox said. "They know how difficult it will be to [defeat the measure] at the ballot, and so they try to win in court." Cox said his organization has discussed filing a friend-of-the-court brief in defense of the proposed constitutional change, an alternative to intervening in a lawsuit and becoming a party in the case.

On July 23, after counting nearly 96,000 valid signatures of registered voters, the secretary of state's office certified the proposal for the November 2 general election. The measure needed only 80,570 signatures to be certified for the ballot. Arkansas already has a statutory ban on same-sex marriage, but the ballot measure, if it passes, would give the ban constitutional standing, making it nonreviewable by a state court.

Supporters of the ban say a constitutional statute is necessary to prevent a state court from striking down state law, as the Massachusetts supreme judicial court did last year.

Opponents of the measure say it will reinforce discriminatory behavior toward gay men and lesbians. "Of course it concerns much more than marriage, and it's misleading to the voters," said Rita Sklar, executive director of the ACLU in Arkansas.

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