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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 9 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 19
I support equality but I'll still fight against it, Arkansas AG says
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I support equality but I'll still fight against it, Arkansas AG says

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel said on May 3 that he personally supports the idea of marriage equality, but also promised to defend the state's ban on same-sex marriage in the courts.

'I want to tell you I do support marriage equality and I do believe Arkansans should have the right to be equal in the eyes of the law,' McDaniel told the Associated Press Managing Editors convention.

'I'm going to zealously defend our constitution, but at the same time I think it's important to let people know where I stand on the matter,' McDaniel told AP reporters after his speech.

Arkansas's ban on same-sex marriage is currently being challenged by one state and one federal lawsuit. McDaniel has also accepted two initiatives seeking to repeal the ban, one for the 2014 ballot and one for 2016.

Although Attorneys General in several states have declined to defend state bans on same-sex marriage, McDaniel said he did not accept the idea that state officials should allow their personal views to determine whether to defend state law. He also criticized U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder for advising state officials that they need not defend unconstitutional laws.

'I do not take orders from Eric Holder and I'm determined to live up to my obligation, and that includes with regard to our state's definition of marriage,' McDaniel said.

The HRC issued a statement praising McDaniel for his comments.

'Today Attorney General McDaniel adds his voice to an ever-growing chorus of Americans from across the country that are standing up for the right of all couples to marry, and there is no turning back that tide,' HRC President Chad Griffin, an Arkansas native, said in a statement released by the group.

'As a proud Arkansan, I know it's only a matter of time before committed and loving gay and lesbian couples in my home state get to enjoy all the rights and benefits that come with civil marriage.'

On the other hand, the head of the group that campaigned for the ban when it was passed by voters in 2004 said he was surprised by McDaniel's remarks.

'I'm disappointed because he didn't have to take a position one way or the other. It is disappointing that he has taken this position,' said Jerry Cox, president of the Arkansas Family Council.

'However, I do not doubt the ability of his staff to adequately defend the Arkansas marriage amendment because I believe the people on his staff are very capable lawyers and I have seen them work very capably on other issues.'

McDaniel, a Democrat, is in his last year as Attorney General. He briefly ran for governor, but dropped out of the race last year after admitting to an 'inappropriate relationship' with a woman attorney. Other Democratic candidates have opposed marriage equality.

U.S. Senator Mark Pryor, a Democrat, who is running for reelection, and former Congressman Mike Ross, a Democrat, who is running for governor, remain officially opposed to same-sex marriage.

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