Arkansas attorney general Dustin McDaniel approved language for a 2016 ballot initiative Thursday that would repeal the state's constitutional ban on marriage equality, and would declare that marriage is a "union between two people regardless of sex," reports the Associated Press.
Although McDaniel's office reportedly denied several earlier petitions, the attorney general did give approval to a September proposal that would give Arkansas voters a chance to rescind a 2004 constitutional amendment that barred same-sex marriage. However, that initiative would not explicitly establish marriage equality in the state.
The language approved Thursday will ask Arkansas voters to strike down the state's constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, while also replacing the antigay language with a recognition that marriage is the union of two adults, without regard to either party's sex or gender. According to the language approved Thursday, the ballot measure would also make it illegal for county clerks to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples who requested them. The measure also includes exemptions for clergy and religious organizations who have a faith-based opposition to marriage equality.
The proposal was submitted by the Arkansas Initiative for Marriage Equality, which can now begin collecting the 78,133 signatures from registered voters needed to qualify for the 2016 ballot.
The founder of Arkansas Initiative for Marriage Equality said he was thrilled that the latest petition received the attorney general's approval, and that the group will begin collecting signatures on both ballot initiatives immediately.
"We're ready to go, full-steam ahead," Jack Weir told the AP. "We couldn't be more happy."
The AP notes that Arkansas voters approved the constitutional ban on marriage equality by a margin of 75 percent in 2004. Several same-sex couples in Arkansas have filed suit in state and federal courts taking aim at the state's ban, citing the recent Supreme Court decisions in favor of marriage equality.