Supporters of Arkansas’ anti-gay marriage amendment rallied at the Capitol Wednesday, the day before the Arkansas Supreme Court and a U.S. district judge were to hear oral arguments on Judge Chris Piazza’s ruling that struck it down.
Several hundred Arkansans attended the “Honor Our Vote” rally, sponsored by Vision America, the Family Council and others on a cold, windy day. A couple of dozen vocal gay marriage supporters heckled the speakers throughout the proceedings.
Arkansans passed a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union of an opposite-sex couple in 2004 by a 75-25% margin. Speakers called on the Court to affirm that ruling.
“We are here today to call on the Arkansas Supreme Court to simply let the people’s vote for marriage stand,” Jerry Cox, executive director of the Family Council, said to cheers from his supporters.
Oral arguments on the ban will be held in the Supreme Court and in U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker’s court Thursday. Cox said the rally was focused on the Supreme Court because justices are elected.
Gay marriage supporters made their presence known throughout the event by attempting to refute the speakers’ comments from the audience. When pastors were asked to stand on the Capitol steps behind the speakers, pastor Randy Eddy-McCain and associate pastor Sheryl Myers of Open Door Community Church in Sherwood joined the group holding a sign reading, “Christian pastors for marriage equality.”
Organizers allowed them to remain on the steps while gay marriage opponents stood in front of the sign with signs of their own.
“They asked for pastors to come, and we knew there’d be a lot on the other side, so we wanted to let people know that we as Christian pastors believe in equality in marriage,” Eddy-McCain said in an interview afterwards.
Asked about the counter-demonstration, Cox said, “Oh, it’s a free country, and people are free to come out and voice their opinion as much as they want. I have no problem with that. I’m just glad we have the right to speak our mind, and I support everyone else’s right to do that as well.”
Josh Duggar, executive director of the D.C.-based group Family Research Council Action and a star of the TLC television series “19 Kids and Counting,” told audience members the country’s economy is built on strong families, strong faith and an understanding of basic principles.
“I truly believe that this is under attack not coincidentally, but there is definitely an agenda,” he said. “There is an agenda to silence us, to silence those of us who believe in what is right, those of us who have these deeply held convictions.”
He read a supportive letter from Gov.-elect Asa Hutchinson, who said traditional marriage benefits society. Hutchinson’s letter said opposition to gay marriage is not intended to encourage discrimination.
“As governor, I will continue to protect traditional marriage. In the event the Arkansas Supreme Court allows same-sex marriage in Arkansas, I will work with pastors, community leaders and others to ensure that we protect our rights of conscience for our churches, businesses and nonprofits,” Hutchinson’s letter said.