The Arkansas House of Representatives passed a resolution today to reaffirm state constitutional amendment 83. The largely symbolic vote on HR 1049 came as the Supreme Court considers cases this week on the constitutionality of same-sex marriage. Amendment 83, which was approved overwhelmingly by voters in 2004, banned recognition of same-sex unions in Arkansas.
The resolution, introduced by Republican Representative Jim Dotson of Bentonville, received emotional responses by legislators. Among them was Democratic Representative Deborah Ferguson of West Memphis. “This resolution is hurtful, to our sons, our daughters and an entire community who hasn’t chosen to be gay,” said Ferguson. “It says we don’t value them as equal citizens. What are the consequences of intolerance? What are the consequences of saying we value some lives less?”
Representative Dotson responded saying the resolution was meant to give legislative members “an opportunity to weigh in” on what he called “one of the most decisive issues of our time.” He refuted arguments that he meant harm. “I don’t believe I have hatred toward anybody. But I don’t believe we need to redefine marriage that’s been around for thousands of years.”
The resolution passed by a voice-vote and also affirmed support of the Federal Defense of Marriage Act, whose legality is undergoing consideration by the nation’s top court. Representative Justin Harris of West Fork, a Republican, said the resolution testified to values held by many. “Although they may not be mainstream with the liberal media, they are mainstream with the heartbeat of everyday Arkansans,” said Harris.
Democratic Representative Warwick Sabin of Little Rock, who later had to excuse himself when overcome with emotion, spoke against the resolution, asserting that the struggle of gays to marry was about liberty. “I think if two consenting adults are willing to enter into a lifetime relationship with each other then I don’t see why that can’t be recognized by the government,” said Sabin.