Arkansas Legislature Backs Resolution Supporting Same-Sex Marriage Ban, Suggesting Judicial Recalls

Jun 20, 2014

David Johnson (front, left) responds to Jason Rapert's remarks (back). David Sanders (front, right) looks on.
Credit Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

State legislators passed a resolution Friday in support of the state’s ban on same-sex marriage and calling for remedies to negate what it calls judicial activism. The effort led by Republican State Senator Jason Rapert of Bigelow drew wide support in the Arkansas Legislative Council.

Rapert said Circuit Judge Chris Piazza, who struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, overstepped his authority.

“It went against what the people of Arkansas voted for, it’s in our Constitution, and people want that defended. He may end up being the poster child for judicial recall in this state. That actually will be his legacy not striking against Amendment 83,” said Rapert.

Rapert frequently argued because the ban was passed by an overwhelming majority of voters in 2004 it was more valid than Piazza’s ruling. Democratic Representative John Walker of Little Rock disagreed.

“There was a time when the will of the people dictated that women could not vote or hold political office. There was a time when slavery was required and after slavery was required and eliminated by a civil war there was a time all of the southern states adopted laws as a matter of their Constitutions. People voted for those laws overwhelmingly,” said Walker.

Walker said the resolution threatens the idea of an independent judiciary. He said the ruling is a matter for review, but for the Supreme Court, not recalls or the legislature.

Rapert also said his arguments are not necessarily religious, but based on secular viewpoints.

“Judge Piazza went further than the United States Supreme Court went when they had the opportunity to give a clear signal of what they want to see happen in the country on this issue. They left standing, all over this country, all of the laws in the states that define marriage,” said Rapert.

Democratic Senator David Johnson of Little Rock, the first to speak against the resolution, found fault with Rapert’s legal analysis.

“You’ve seen courts in all these states striking down marriage bans. There’s probably been 20 states so far. Since Arkansas did it -since Judge Chris Piazza did it – Wisconsin, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania have done it. It’s not like all these judges are just going off the rails and doing willy-nilly whatever they want to do. They’re not doing that. They’re reading the decision of the US Supreme Court last year and that’s their only option,” said Johnson.

Speaking afterward Rapert said Jerry Cox with Arkansas Family Council is considering a petition process for judicial recalls. 

Other Notes on Senator Rapert

He said most gay people do not want to get married they only want affirmation.

He expressed concern same-sex marriage would lead to polygamy. Jerry Cox also suggested marriage is now "undefined."

After talking about Canadian schools considering rest room access for transgender youth Rapert asked his fellow legislators, "what are we becoming?"

He said gay people can already get rights included in marriage they just need to go through some extra steps with attorneys.

He suggested gay marriage would expand the welfare system by breaking down "traditional" family structures. 

He expressed concerns churches would be barred from speaking openly about homosexuality without it being considered hate speech.

He said he does not want gay people to be harassed or prevented from living as they "choose."

Rapert and Johnson shook hands after the meeting concluded.