Outgoing Attorney General Dustin McDaniel announced on Tuesday his intent to appeal a federal judge in Little Rock's decision striking down Arkansas's ban on same-sex marriage. McDaniel said he had hoped the state Supreme Court would have ruled, suggesting it may have affected his decision to appeal, before Friday's deadline for a federal appeal to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis, Missouri.
KUAR's Jacob Kauffman spoke with the state's next attorney general, Leslie Rutledge, who will take McDaniel's position and the cases on same-sex marriage in mid-January.
KAUFFMAN: I’m joined by Arkansas’s Attorney General-elect Leslie Rutledge. Thanks for talking with us.
RUTLEDGE: Thank you Jacob for having me on.
KAUFFMAN: Headed into the New Year we still are awaiting a ruling from the state Supreme Court on a lower court’s decision striking down Arkansas’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. Outgoing AG Dustin McDaniel has announced he’ll be appealing a separate, federal ruling.
You’ll be in handling all of this come January. What can you do, or argue in court, that others haven’t? 18 states this year have had same-sex marriage legalized.
RUTLEDGE: The most important thing is to continue the cases that the current Attorney General, General McDaniel, his office has filed and defending our constitutional amendment defining marriage. These cases are...we have great lawyers at the attorney general’s office that have been working on these. I was pleased that General McDaniel went ahead an filed that notice of appeal in the federal case on the marriage amendment. I am confident and hopeful that the Arkansas Supreme Court will uphold the definition of marriage.
KAUFFMAN: Going forward, if the Arkansas Supreme Court does decide to reaffirm the lower court’s ruling would you still want to proceed with the federal appeal?
RUTLEDGE: I think that’s something we have to look at, at the time. Again, I think it’s going to come down to what specifically the court rules on vs., you know, will they strike it down or uphold, or you know what parts of it? Often times Jacob, in these cases you see where a court may rule on a very small issue in a case but it won’t affect the overall nature of the law, of the amendment etc. I think we’re just going to have to wait and see what the Arkansas Supreme Court decides.
We’re going to move forward, I was pleased like I said that General McDaniel filed that notice of appeal. I look forward to handling those cases and working with the attorneys on staff at the AG’s office and making sure we defend Arkansas’s constitutional definition of marriage.
KAUFFMAN: The majority of Americans right now live in states with same-sex marriage being legal, around 35 states, are you worried about the prospect of Arkansans having less rights than their fellow citizens elsewhere in the country? Or just generally this idea of two separate systems in different states, is that disconcerting?
RUTLEDGE: I think it’s a matter of upholding the law, the amendment, that was passed in 2004 by an overwhelming majority defining marriage and that is the role of the attorney general to enforce and defend the laws of the state of Arkansas.
KAUFFMAN: Attorney General Dustin McDaniel doesn’t personally believe in the gay marriage ban. You certainly do believe in this ban in place. Do you think that difference will show in court or in arguments in any way, that different level of conviction maybe? And do you plan to personally appear in any of these decisions in the courtroom?
RUTLEDGE: Depending on the timing of the oral arguments in these cases and how soon they are, at what point in administration, certainly I will be very engaged working with the assistant attorney general and making sure that this case is carried out and that we do zealously and 100 percent advocate for the law on the books that the citizens of Arkansas. Again, it is an amendment defining marriage.
KAUFFMAN: I’ve been speaking with the soon-to-be Attorney General of Arkansas, Republican Leslie Rutledge. Thanks for your time.
RUTLEDGE: Thank you Jacob, you have a great holiday and Merry Christmas to your listeners.