- Associated Press - Friday, June 20, 2014

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - A resolution asking the Arkansas Supreme Court to uphold a voter-approved constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages, which a circuit judge recently overturned, won support from state lawmakers Friday.

The non-binding measure, approved by the panel that represents the full Legislature between sessions, also condemns Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza, who struck down the ban as unconstitutional last month. Piazza’s ruling said the government can’t give rights to a majority group without also extending them to a minority group, even if unpopular.

Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Conway, who sponsored the measure, urged legislators to respect the wish of the voters, who approved the amendment a decade ago by a 3-1 margin.

“There is no branch of this government that’s more important than the people,” Rapert said. Separately, Rapert has called for Piazza’s impeachment.

More than 500 marriage licenses were issued to same-sex couples after Piazza’s ruling. The Arkansas Supreme Court blocked further same-sex marriages after receiving an appeal from Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel.

McDaniel has said he is personally in favor of legal same-sex marriages but would defend the state law. The sides are to submit written briefings to the high court.

More than a dozen federal and state judges across the U.S. have struck down part or all of state-level bans in recent months.

Sen. David Johnson, D-Little Rock, defended Piazza’s ruling, saying the judge followed the law and ruled as he was obligated to. Johnson, an attorney, noted the similar rulings in numerous states.

“It’s not like all these judges are going off the rails,” Johnson said. “They are upholding their oath of office.”

Rapert accused Piazza of failing to abide by his oath to uphold the Arkansas Constitution, which Johnson said was “incorrect” and “false.”

“We don’t have any business adopting (the resolution),” Johnson said.

Rep. John Walker, D-Little Rock, a civil rights attorney, likened the issue to the end of slavery and the introduction of women’s suffrage, and said passing the resolution would be unjust.

“I see this as a civil rights bill, pretty much as I do on slavery. It is very clear the courts have to make this decision,” Walker said.

The Washington, D.C.-based Human Rights Campaign, which supports gay marriage, issued a statement critical of the vote.

“The Arkansas Legislative Council can’t intimidate the judiciary into ignoring the fact that gay and lesbian couples have a constitutional right to marry. This is a matter of basic fairness and shouldn’t be subject to political gamesmanship,” said Chad Griffin, organization president, who is an Arkansas native.

The resolution had 55 listed co-sponsors among the House and Senate, and Rapert added three more at the start of his remarks. Last month Rapert tried to bring the measure before the council but a procedural move blocked it from a vote. Rapert delivered a letter of protest prior to Friday’s meeting.

Rapert said the U.S. Supreme Court stopped short of legalizing same-sex marriage nationally and that the ban should stand.

Limiting marriage to a bond between one man and one woman is appropriate in the name of “procreative love,” he said.

“We are taking a strike at a fundamental building block of society,” Rapert said.

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