LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel on Thursday approved the wording of a proposal to legalize same-sex marriage, clearing the way for supporters to begin gathering signatures to place the measure on the 2016 ballot.
McDaniel’s office certified the wording of the proposed constitutional amendment submitted by the Arkansas Initiative for Marriage Equality.
McDaniel’s certification is required before the group can pursue the 78,133 signatures from registered voters needed to place the proposal on the ballot.
“We’re all ready to go, full steam ahead,” said Jack Weir, the group’s founder, who said he hoped to begin gathering signatures soon.. “We couldn’t be more happy.”
The measure is the second gay marriage proposal recently certified by McDaniel’s office. In September, he approved the wording of a proposal a group wants to put on next year’s ballot that would repeal the state Constitution amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman.
That proposal, however, does not specifically call for legalizing gay marriage.
The proposal approved Thursday would also repeal the marriage amendment, which was approved by voters in 2004, and would instead recognize marriage as a “union between two people regardless of sex.” It would also prohibit county clerks from denying marriage licenses to couples based on their sex.
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Weir said he planned to help the group trying to get the gay marriage ban repeal on the ballot next year while also gathering support for his 2016 proposal. McDaniel had rejected earlier versions of Weir’s proposal because it didn’t address the ban currently in the constitution.
“It’s going to take a lot of effort from our people and the newcomers we’ll have in the next three years,” he said. “I see people’s hearts and minds chang ing every time we go to an event and talk to people. I see a big change coming in Arkansas.”
Arkansas’ gay marriage ban was approved by 75 percent of voters in 2004. Same-sex couples have filed lawsuits this year in federal and state court challenging the ban.
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