Statements From Arkansas Officials On Marriage Ruling

Jun 26, 2015

Below is a collection of statements on the SCOTUS marriage ruling issued by Arkansas-related politicians and elected officials.

LITTLE ROCK – Governor Asa Hutchinson released the statement below following the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage:

"Today the Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision requires the State of Arkansas to recognize same-sex marriage.This decision goes against the expressed view of Arkansans and my personal beliefs and convictions. While my personal convictions will not change, as Governor I recognize the responsibility of the state to follow the direction of the U.S. Supreme Court. As a result of this ruling, I will direct all state agencies to comply with the decision.

“It is also important to note that the Supreme Court decision is directed at the states to allow and recognize marriage between two people of the same sex. It is not a directive for churches or pastors to recognize same-sex marriage. The decision for churches, pastors and individuals is a choice that should be left to the convictions of conscience."

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today released a statement in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges.

“Although this decision does not reflect the will of Arkansas voters, we are a nation of laws, and the judicial system has an important role to play. I am disappointed that the justices have chosen to ignore the role of the States to define marriage. The justices have issued a decision, and that decision must be followed.

“We are continuing to review this landmark decision to make sure the full implications are understood and that implementation is consistent with the rule of law. I urge those seeking to marry to be respectful as the State seeks to follow this ruling. Moving forward, it is critically important that the rights of religious freedom be protected, and I am committed to doing so.”

Rutledge also issued a memo to state and local officials:

The purpose of this memorandum is to advise officials of the State of Arkansas and government officials of Arkansas counties, Arkansas municipalities, and others regarding the same-sex marriage ruling today by the United States Supreme Court in Obergefell, James, et al. v. Hodges, Richard, et al. (U.S. Supreme Court No. 14-556, June 26, 2015).

At the outset, it should be noted that the U.S. Supreme Court directive applies only to government agencies and officials, and civil marriage recognized by the government and does not compel religious institutions or clergy to recognize same-sex marriage. The opinion specifically notes that “[t]he First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered. ” Id., slip opinion at *27.

The fundamental governing principle to ensure compliance by government officials and government entities with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling is: same-sex couples should be treated exactly the same as opposite-sex couples in matters regarding civil marriage and the attendant rights, benefits, and obligations of civil marriage. State and local officials must immediately recognize the validity of same-sex marriage licenses issued by Arkansas and same-sex marriage licenses issued by other states, just as state and local officials recognize the validity of opposite-sex marriage licenses issued by Arkansas and other states. Arkansas officials should recognize the validity of same-sex marriage licenses issued in other states both before and after the Supreme Court ruling.

Arkansas county clerks should issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples upon request, requiring exactly the same procedures, fees, and other requirements as required for opposite-sex couples. Government agencies which provide privileges and benefits to married couples or spouses of married individuals should provide the same privileges and benefits to married same-sex couples and same-sex spouses of married individuals. For example, the state tax authorities should allow same-sex married couples to submit joint tax returns if those couples choose to do so, and should treat them exactly the same as opposite-sex couples who submit joint tax returns. Government employers that allow spouses of married employees to enroll in employee benefits programs such as health insurance should allow same-sex spouses of employees to enroll in employee benefits programs, exactly as they allow opposite-sex spouses of employees to enroll in employee benefits programs.

Again, the Supreme Court decision applies only to government entities, and civil marriage recognized by States and government and does not compel religious institutions, clergy, or private individuals to recognize same-sex marriage.

Little Rock, Ark. - Former Arkansas governor and 2016 Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee made the following statement in response to the Supreme Court's ruling on Obergefell v. Hodges.

"The Supreme Court has spoken with a very divided voice on something only the Supreme Being can do-redefine marriage. I will not acquiesce to an imperial court any more than our Founders acquiesced to an imperial British monarch. We must resist and reject judicial tyranny, not retreat.

"This ruling is not about marriage equality, it's about marriage redefinition. This irrational, unconstitutional rejection of the expressed will of the people in over 30 states will prove to be one of the court's most disastrous decisions, and they have had many. The only outcome worse than this flawed, failed decision would be for the President and Congress, two co-equal branches of government, to surrender in the face of this out-of-control act of unconstitutional, judicial tyranny."

"The Supreme Court can no more repeal the laws of nature and nature's God on marriage than it can the laws of gravity. Under our Constitution, the court cannot write a law, even though some cowardly politicians will wave the white flag and accept it without realizing that they are failing their sworn duty to reject abuses from the court. If accepted by Congress and this President, this decision will be a serious blow to religious liberty, which is the heart of the First Amendment."

Democratic Party of Arkansas Chair Vincent Insalaco 

Today the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of Marriage Equality. Those of us in the Democratic Party who support this vital issue realize the importance of this decision. Individual liberty is a core value of the Democratic Party.

To those in our party who disagree with this decision, I want to take a second to make sure we all understand what this ruling does. This ruling does not mandate what religious groups must do. It mandates what government must do. That is to respect the rights of every single American. That government does not have the authority to discriminate against anyone who marries.

Today is a milestone for same sex couples and we celebrate with them. But it is also crucial to recognize that the job is not finished. LGBT Arkansans can still be fired from their jobs for whom they are. Today, we have just as much religious freedom today as yesterday. But today all people are more free under the law. We should all celebrate that.