LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Arkansas’ attorney general rejected a proposal Friday to repeal the state constitution’s ban on gay marriage, saying the ballot measure’s wording could mislead voters into believing it would automatically legalize same-sex unions.
Attorney General Dustin McDaniel told Arkansans for Equality, which wants to put the measure on the ballot for the general election in 2014, that it needs to rework the wording.
The proposal must be certified by McDaniel’s office before the group can begin gathering the 78,133 signatures from registered voters needed to win a spot on the ballot.
Judd Mann, the co-chairman of Arkansans for Equality said he wasn’t surprised by McDaniel’s rejection since ballot measures are rarely approved on first submission. Mann said the group would work on a revised proposal that he hoped to submit next week.
“We’re actually excited,” Mann said. “We feel like this is a step in the right direction.”
The proposal calls for repealing a constitutional amendment voters approved in 2004 that defines marriage as between a man and a woman. McDaniel noted that state law also bars gay marriages and would still be in place if the group’s amendment was approved.
“A voter might mistakenly interpret the repeal of Amendment 83 as having the immediate effect of sanctioning same-sex marriage. Your proposed ballot title is therefore inherently misleading,” McDaniel wrote.
The proposal was filed June 27, the day after the U.S. Supreme Court issued a pair of rulings striking down the Defense of Marriage Act and opening the door for California to resume same-sex marriages.
A separate group has proposed a measure for the 2016 ballot that would specifically legalize gay marriage in the state. That one states that the right to marry shall not be abridged or denied on account of gender and sexual orientation. The measure would not require churches or religious organizations to perform gay marriages. McDaniel has not responded to that proposal yet.
Arkansas’ gay marriage ban was approved by 75 percent of voters in 2004. A group of 11 gay couples have filed a lawsuit in Pulaski County Court aimed at overturning the gay marriage ban.
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