Gov. Hutchinson: No Discretion For County Clerks On Gay Marriage Licenses

by Steve Brawner ([email protected]) 309 views 

County clerks do not have discretion when it comes to issuing same-sex marriage licenses, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Monday.

Hutchinson made the statement after being asked about social media comments by Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Conway, who has encouraged county clerks opposed to same-sex marriages to resist the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing gay marriage.

“You cannot deny as a state or governmental entity a marriage license because it would be a same sex couple, and so the county clerks under my interpretation do have a nondiscretionary function of issuing those marriage licenses,” he said.

Hutchinson said granting a same-sex marriage license is simply a “ministerial act.” New software will not require clerks to sign the document.

Hutchinson said churches and individuals outside of government have a First Amendment right not to perform a gay marriage. However, he said uncertainty remains regarding how the ruling overall will apply to private businesses and nonprofit organizations. He said the Religious Freedom Restoration Act passed by the Legislature earlier this year will provide a “framework for those issues to be resolved.”

Hutchinson welcomed a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court Monday that the federal Environmental Protection Agency should have considered costs before setting air pollution limits in 2011. Hutchinson said the ruling would be significant for Arkansas.

“The EPA has had a habit of pushing regulations out regardless of the cost impact to the states,” he said. He later said the ruling “is good news for those that are very concerned about the burdensome EPA regulations and the cost that is to Arkansas.”

Hutchinson said he’s waiting to see the effects of today’s Supreme Court decision allowing certain states to use a three-drug combination in lethal injections that includes the sedative midazolam. Arkansas has not executed a prisoner since 2005, but plans to use a different combination that includes the drug phenobarbital when it resumes the practice.

Hutchinson said he has directed the Department of Corrections to initiate a search for the appropriate drugs, which have been hard to find. He expects more litigation on the topic.