Appearing today before the Associated Press managing editors, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel
said directly that he personally supported same-sex marriage
but would continue to fight to preserve the state's ban in court.
McDaniel's personal leanings were no well-kept secret. He was one of a handful of Democratic politicians who spoke against the adoption of the state constitutional amendment in 2008, later invalidated in court, that banned adoption and foster parenting by same-sex couples. His position on that issue raised some concerns about his intention to adequately defend the remaining ban on marriage, but the law's Religious Right proponents have generally been silent as McDaniel's office has fought cases in both state and federal court on the issue.
Circuit Judge Chris Piazza
is expected to rule on the state case next week. Not long after, new activity is expected in the federal court challenge which share some, but not all, of the same arguments.
McDaniels' personal expression is welcome, whatever the prompt. The more people who come out and stand up for equality, the sooner equality will come. Poll after poll shows majority support for equality among younger people. Opposition is concentrated among the elderly, who won't be around forever.
McDaniel was going to run for governor this year, but was sidelined by a personal scandal. He's expected to be back in the political arena. In four years, perhaps even Arkansas will be safe territory to espouse equality. A recent Public Policy Poll sounding
in Arkansas showed a majority supported giving the legal rights of marriage, or civil union, to same sex couples, if not marriage.
McDaniel told APME:
I want to tell you I do support marriage equality and I do believe Arkansans should have the right to be equal in the eyes of the law.
He said he would "zealously" defend the Arkansas Constitution, but that it was important for the public to know where he stood.
Some other attorney generals around the country have declined to defend laws they believe to be unconstitutional. He has told me before that he felt bound by the constitutional provisions governing his office to defend even laws that he might find objectionable. He reiterated today that personal views shouldn't enter into that decision.
The Stonewall Democrats of Arkansas cheered McDaniel's statement.
Stonewall Democratic Caucus of Arkansas applauds Attorney General Dustin McDaniel for publicly stating his support of marriage equality. As exciting as this announcement is, it was met with little surprise. Our state’s top legal official is a great individual and public servant with an open mind and open heart. Also, the fact is that more and more people across the state and nation continue to embrace marriage equality. As this happens it is important they speak out and be a witness to others that love will prevail over prejudice. It is particularly important when elected officials make that public stand for equality. Now that almost one-third of our nation’s states recognize marriage equality, we are more and more excited about the day in which announcements such as this will no longer be considered “news.”
Separately, we are not concerned with the attorney general's decision to defend the ban. As the courts in so many other states have ruled similar bans to be unconstitutional, it can make an even stronger statement on behalf of equality for those harboring prejudices to have their day in court.