The Arkansas supreme court on Friday agreed to expedite a hearing requested by opponents of a ballot measure for an amendment to the state constitution banning same-sex marriage. The court set September 23 for oral arguments in the case. Justices also gave both sides until September 15 to file briefs and until September 20 to respond to the briefs.
On Thursday the Arkansas chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union filed a legal challenge to knock the proposed state constitutional amendment off the November ballot and requested the expedited hearing.
The group spearheading the amendment drive said it would seek to intervene in the lawsuit, saying voters should have the right to decide. "The ACLU is desperate to evade democracy," said Jerry Cox, president of the Arkansas Marriage Amendment Committee.
The ACLU says the proposed amendment, which also would prohibit state recognition of civil unions between same-sex couples, is deliberately vague--hiding potentially far-ranging effects on civil unions, single people, and heterosexual married couples. "There's a lot of vagueness and a lot of misrepresentation," said lawyer Blake S. Rutherford of Little Rock. "The important thing, when a voter walks into a voting booth, is to have as much information before them so that they can make an informed decision. The language in this amendment doesn't give the voter that opportunity, and that's the primary basis for our challenge."
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.