No Legislative Response To Same-Sex Marriage Ruling In Near Future

Jul 8, 2015

Van Buren County Courthouse.

Arkansas House Majority Leader Ken Bragg says there are no specific or immediate plans to respond legislatively to the US Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage. Bragg’s comments to KUAR on Wednesday follow a statement last week on behalf of the House Republican Caucus that called for a new look at additional so-called religious freedom laws.

The Republican from Sheridan said there is currently no pressing, identifiable issue that the Legislature could act to remedy for those opposed to the legalization of marriage for same-sex couples.

“Until we see a specific need for a specific piece of legislation that would be so critical and time sensitive that it would take a special session, we’re not looking at that right now,” Bragg said.

Also on Wednesday, Van Buren County Clerk Pam Bradford said she is walking back her pledge, made just one day earlier, to refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Bradford told the Associated Press she reversed course after consulting with an attorney with the Association of Arkansas Counties.

Bragg said one desire of some House Republicans has been to add protections for county clerks that refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. However, he said a visit by Governor Asa Hutchinson Tuesday morning with the House Republican caucus further solidified for him that there is little the Legislature can do in that regard.

“The governor was very clear in explaining that this is the law. We don’t agree with the decision, we think it was a bad decision, but that was the decision that was made. And the county clerks, you know, they have to abide by the law,” said Bragg.

However, some effort at legislation in the 2017 regular session is still a possibility according to Bragg. He contended the full extent of the fallout from the ruling is still unknown.

“We just don’t know all the implications that might come up later. The intent of that [June 30 statement on behalf of House Republicans] was just to evaluate and see what questions might come up at a later date. Let’s say the effect on religious schools, that might have married housing. If they had a policy that restricted a gay couple from utilizing their housing how would that be handled?”

On Tuesday Governor Asa Hutchinson told reporters he is continuing to plan meetings with lawmakers, like he had with the House Republican caucus, to hear from those opposed to the US Supreme Court ruling.

“Conversations continue. We had a lot of good exchange of ideas, concerns, trying to understand where everybody’s coming from. It was very beneficial, very profitable, helps shape our thinking. Those discussions will continue,” said Hutchinson.