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Marriage equality ruling escalates war of words between Arkansas governor, lawmakers

Marriage equality ruling escalates war of words between Arkansas governor, lawmakers
Arkansas state capitol in Little Rock.
Arkansas state capitol in Little Rock.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Opposition from Arkansas legislative leaders to the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling lifting the ban on same-sex marriage nationwide has bubbled over into a war of words between the state’s legislative and executive branches.

Over the week since the ruling, the House and Senate Republican caucuses have said they plan to push for legislation to reinforce protections for those who disagree with the ruling on religious grounds.

But Gov. Asa Hutchinson has said county clerks who issue marriage licenses must follow the ruling. He said he believes a religious objections law passed by the Legislature earlier this year sufficiently protects the state’s pastors, religious institutions and individuals.

But wires were crossed during a flurry of statements released earlier in the week as at least one county clerk resigned over what she said were moral objections to issuing same-sex marriage licenses.

The House Republican caucus issued a statement Tuesday calling the ruling dangerous and noting that Republican state representatives are considering their options. Senate Republicans said they are working on legislation to reinforce religious protections in the event that Hutchinson calls a special session.

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Responding to the Legislature, Hutchinson said in a statement late Thursday that his position had not changed but he would consider the additional protections.

“I will continue to determine what legislative action is needed to address the myriad of legal issues that will result from the ruling and also what legislation is needed to protect the churches, pastors and religious institutions who cannot follow the dictates of the Court,” he wrote.

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