Groups supporting and opposing a proposed Arkansas constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage have been gearing up for a legal battle for months. The Arkansas Marriage Amendment Committee and the Arkansas chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union will have their chance to argue before the state supreme court on September 23. This week the high court granted a request from the amendment committee to intervene in a lawsuit filed by the ACLU. The committee had turned in more than 200,000 signatures to get the measure on the November ballot. Briefs from both sides are due September 15. "We've been preparing for the case. We knew it was going to happen and that it was just a matter of time," said Chris Stewart, executive director of the amendment committee. "We've done all our legal work already."
The Arkansas ACLU has been preparing to challenge the proposed amendment since the committee began collecting signatures, said Rita Sklar, Arkansas ACLU executive director. The ACLU plans to argue that the proposed constitutional amendment, which says that marriage should be defined strictly as a union of a man and a woman, is too vague and could lead to unintended consequences, Sklar said. Sklar said the effects of the proposal could go beyond same-sex marriage to affect domestic partnerships and the rights of heterosexual married couples. "I bet most people signing the petition didn't know what they were signing," she said. Stewart said the ACLU's arguments are without merit and the proposal's wording is clear. The committee intervened in the suit because "we believe we need to adequately represent the 200,000 people who signed the petition," he said.