LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The Arkansas Senate on Tuesday endorsed a long-shot effort to push for amending the U.S. Constitution to effectively ban gay marriage and abortion, a move one Republican lawmaker said is needed to overturn rulings from the nation’s highest court.
The majority-Republican chamber approved by a 19-9 vote a resolution calling for a federal constitutional convention to take up an amendment that would define marriage as between a man and a woman. A separate resolution calling for an amendment effectively declaring that life begins at conception passed on an 18-9 vote.
“This is a day where the Arkansas Senate stood up for life and stood up for natural marriage between a man and a woman and also it will encourage people around the nation,” said Republican Sen. Jason Rapert, who sponsored the resolutions.
The resolutions, which now head to the House, are modeled after an effort among Republicans nationwide to call for a “convention of the states” to take up a federal balanced budget amendment. Twenty-eight states, including Arkansas, have passed balanced budget convention resolutions. Rapert said he did not know if any states have passed similar resolutions on gay marriage or abortion.
The Arkansas proposals would need at least 33 other states to agree for a convention to be held, and 38 states to ratify the amendments.
The measures are advancing months after Republicans expanded their majorities in both chambers of the Legislature and come as social conservatives are securing victories in the Legislature. Arkansas lawmakers have approved a ban on a common second-trimester abortion procedure, and a “bathroom bill” targeting transgender people has also been introduced.
The top Democrat in the Senate said he didn’t see the need for either amendment in the constitution.
“I just don’t think those are the type of issues that our forefathers saw as being part of our constitution,” Senate Minority Leader Keith Ingram said.
Sen. Jane English, the only Republican to vote against both measures, called herself “100 percent pro-traditional marriage” and “100 percent pro-life” but said she was worried the convention of the states would open the door for any number of issues to come up.
“I’m just not on board with the convention of the states thing,” English said.
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