Attorney General Dustin McDaniel (D) certified a proposal that will allow supporters of a state amendment to repeal the ban on same-sex marriages to move forward with signature collections.
The measure was submitted by the Arkansas Initiative for Marriage Equality committee and is the second gay marriage ban repeal proposal certified by McDaniel that would repeal the 2004-approved Arkansas Marriage Amendment, which defines marriage as only between one man and one woman.
McDaniel did make a change to the proposal’s ballot title, which was originally filed as “The Arkansas Marriage Amendment.” McDaniel okayed the collection of signatures with a change of the ballot title to “The Arkansas Same-Sex Marriage Amendment.”
Aspects of the proposal include:
• Defining marriage as the union between two people regardless of sex;
• Providing that no clergy member or religious organization shall be obligated to perform wedding ceremonies or participate in the solemnization of any marriage;
• Providing that the refusal by a clergy member or religious organizations to perform any marriage ceremony or solemnization shall not create any civil claim;
• Repealing Amendment 83 to the Arkansas Constitution;
• Prohibiting county clerks from refusing to issue marriage licenses based on the sexes of the couple; and
• Providing that the legislature retains the power — subject to this amendment — to determine the capacity of persons to marry and the legal rights, obligations, privileges, and immunities of marriage.
The group pushing the repeal will now have until July 7, 2014 to collect 78,133 signatures of registered Arkansas voters in order to place the proposed constitutional amendment on next year’s ballot.
Although Arkansas has a ban on gay marriage, many Arkansas employers must now manage certain retirement plans, health insurance plans and other workplace benefits to include same-sex couples legally married in a state or country that recognizes such marriages.
The U.S. Department of Labor announced Sept. 18 that a June 26 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court requires technical changes to the department's Employee Benefits Security Administration. The EBSA change apply to “plans, plan sponsors, fiduciaries, participants and beneficiaries on the decision's impact on the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974,” noted the DOL statement.
One of Arkansas’ largest employers has already opened up benefits to same-sex couples. Wal-Mart earlier this year announced an expansion of coverage eligibility for any spouse or domestic partner of a full-time employee which includes, medical, dental, a new vision option, critical illness and accident plans. Domestic partners will be eligible beginning in 2014, during the enrollment period starting Oct. 12.
According to the Freedom To Marry organization, 14 states and Washington, D.C., allow same-sex marriages and six states “offer broad protections short of marriage.” The 14 states are California, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.
According to Gay Marriage, a website that provides for and against arguments on the issue, notes that 35 states have specific bans on gay marriage.
The Freedom To Marry website included the following statistics.
• More than 35% of the U.S. population lives in a state that either has the freedom to marry or honors out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples.
• More than 41% of the U.S. population lives in a state with either marriage or a broad legal status such as civil union or domestic partnership.
• More than 43% of the U.S. population lives in a state that provides some form of protections for gay couples.