On the eve of oral arguments before the Arkansas Supreme Court and a federal judge, hundreds of supporters of traditional marriage rallied Wednesday morning at the state Capitol.
The event, organized by the Family Council, featured religious leaders and was designed to show support for the 2004 Arkansas constitutional amendment approved by voters that defined marriage as between one man and one woman.
"We are here today to call on the Arkansas Supreme Court to simply let the people's vote for marriage stand," said Jerry Cox, president of the group.
In May, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza declared the amendment unconstitutional. Over the span of a week immediately afterward, more than 500 same-sex couples were married in Arkansas. The ceremonies were eventually halted until an appeal could be considered.
"The Supreme Court can either uphold Judge Piazza's ruling and stand with the voters of Arkansas, or the court can stand with Judge Piazza and obliterate all the definitions of marriage. That's what hangs in the balance right now," Cox said.
Rhonda Woody traveled from Atkins, Arkansas to take part in the rally.
"We believe our vote should be honored, we believe marriage should be between one man and one woman," she said. "God gave us a handbook, the Bible, and that's the law of the land."
Sam Austin is an Assembly of God pastor from Atkins. He said he rallied his congregation to vote for conservatives in this month's election and has asked his members to pray against same-sex marriage.
"I believe that the Bible teaches one man, one woman, for one lifetime," he explained.
There was also a small counter-demonstration by a couple dozen people. John Moix said he is married to his partner and had to sue in court for visitation with his son. He said coming out as gay and finally achieving legal recognition has been a struggle.
"It’s just hard to be rejected at any point, especially by people you care about, and then when you hear it from people who want to use the constitution to reject others, you know, I’m going to be there and I’m not going to stand for that," said Moix.
MaryAnn Hansen of Little Rock also stood alongside same-sex marriage supporters.
"It’s about love. They need to take religion out of politics, out of the government and just vote on the side of love," Hanson said. "The state has no right to tell anybody who they can or cannot marry. I’m sorry, that’s not what the constitution is about."
The state's high court is to hear oral arguments Thursday at 9 a.m. The issue will also be considered at 1:30 p.m. by Judge Kristine Baker of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Eastern District of Arkansas.
Attorneys Jack Wagoner of Little Rock and Cheryl Maples of Searcy are representing the 11 same sex couples who filed the lawsuit challenging the amendment.
Wagoner says he is confident going into the hearings because of repeated rulings around the country striking down same-sex marriage bans.
"The weight of authority is on our side. There's been 49 cases that we count that have come out since the United States Supreme Court decided the landmark Windsor decision in June of 2013 that supports our decision. We only count three on the other side, so we're hopeful," Wagoner said.
Wagoner and Maples will be representing the plaintiff before both courts.