AG certifies wording of Ark. gay marriage proposal

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Associated Press

Posted on September 21, 2013 at 7:04 AM

Updated Saturday, Sep 21 at 7:04 AM

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A proposal to repeal Arkansas' constitutional ban on gay marriage is one step closer to going before voters next year after the state's top lawyer approved a request Thursday to certify the measure's popular name and ballot title.

The proposal from Arkansans for Equality would repeal a constitutional amendment voters approved in 2004 that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

However, the proposal would not legalize gay marriage. Attorney General Dustin McDaniel has previously pointed out that state law also bars gay marriage and would still be in place if the proposal to repeal the same-sex marriage ban was approved.

Proposals must be certified by McDaniel's office before groups can begin gathering signatures needed to win a spot on the ballot.

Judd Mann, co-chair of Arkansans for Equality, said the group will need to raise money to pay for training for canvassers.

"Fundraising is our first effort in having to get about 75,000 signatures," Mann said. "So we have a long, hard road ahead in front of us, but we are so excited."

McDaniel previously rejected two other proposals from Arkansans for Equality, Mann said. McDaniel told the group in July that the ballot measure's wording could mislead voters into believing it would automatically legalize same-sex unions.

But on Thursday, McDaniel said the proposal's popular name — Repeal of the Arkansas Marriage Amendment — was sufficient. He also tweaked the group's ballot title and certified a revised version.

In a separate opinion on Thursday, McDaniel rejected the wording of another gay marriage proposal — The Arkansas Marriage Equality Amendment — that seeks to legally recognize marriage in Arkansas as a union of two people regardless of sex. McDaniel cited what he called "deficiencies" in the ballot title and text of a proposal from Jack Weir III and Christopher Jacks.

Arkansas' gay marriage ban was approved by 75 percent of voters in 2004. Same-sex couples have filed lawsuits this year in federal and state court challenging the ban.

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Follow Jeannie Nuss on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jeannienuss

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