Legislation intended to align Arkansas textbooks with a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage has the endorsement of a house committee. The bill, by Rep. Roy Ragland, a Republican from Marshall, was approved Thursday by the house education committee. Ragland said his bill dovetailed with the constitutional amendment passed overwhelmingly by Arkansas voters in November to limit marriage to opposite-sex couples.
Ragland told the committee his bill would not require textbooks to define marriage and would not ban classroom discussion of marriage arrangements in other cultures. "This won't preclude the teaching of things like the history of the Mormons or polygamy," Ragland told the house committee on education.
But some committee members said they had concerns about the bill. "What if I were to use the Old Testament as a supplement in a class? Am I going to say that they were wrong because they engaged in polygamy?" asked Rep. Linda Chesterfield, a former teacher. Ragland said the law wouldn't apply in that case. Some committee members said they also feared the state wouldn't be able to find textbooks that met the bill's requirements. Rep. Jodie Mahony, a Democrat from El Dorado, suggested holding the bill until the state department of education could research such concerns. The bill later passed on a voice vote.
Jerry Cox of the Arkansas Family Council urged committee members to support the measure. Cox's organization directed the anti-gay marriage amendment effort in the state. "If there was any doubt about how the people of Arkansas feel about gay marriage, they made that very clear on November 2 when they voted by more than 75% to adopt the amendment," he said. "I believe the spirit of this bill is that a teacher cannot go into a classroom and present a definition of marriage that runs counter to the Arkansas constitution," Cox said.