Tuesday, May 13, 2014

EDITORIAL >> Fast changes in Arkansas

Who would have thought our quiet little state would suddenly take the lead when it comes to some of the key issues facing the nation.

Same-sex couples are getting married in courthouses around the state after Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza’s ruling last week allowing gays and lesbians to wed.

Arkansas is also one of the first states to adopt the expansion of Medicaid through private-option plans, which will provide hundreds of thousands of people with health insurance. All of it is paid through the federal Medicaid program and managed through insurance exchanges, but even when the state pays 10 percent of the cost a few years from now, it’s still a great bargain for a poor state like Arkansas.

The third issue putting Arkansas in the forefront is the voter ID controversy, which is heading to the state Supreme Court after Judge Tim Fox invalidated the requirement for photo identification. No one knows if the high court will uphold the lower court’s ruling, but federal courts around the country are striking down the photo requirement. Again, Arkansas could lead the way on this key issue at least in the South.

As for same-sex weddings, who would have expected just a few months ago that the Little Rock newspaper would feature on its front page Jennifer Rambo and Kristin Seaton kissing after they were married in the Eureka Springs Courthouse?

The judge’s decision last Friday — the first in the South — may have surprised a lot of people, but Rambo, a former Jacksonville High School softball player and cheerleader, and Seaton married the next day. Dozens of others followed in Pulaski County and elsewhere.

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel has asked the state Supreme Court to stop same-sex marriages until arguments are made by both sides.

Lonoke and White counties have refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples until the state Supreme Court decides on Piazza’s ruling. Cabot has a significant gay and lesbian community who can make the short trip to the Pulaski County courthouse if they want to marry before such marriages are halted. An appeal to a federal court might allow those marriages to proceed even before the high court acts.

Something tells us same-sex marriage will continue in Arkansas, and we’ll see more photos of gays and lesbians embracing on the front page of the state newspaper.

The state’s political landscape may be shifting with the recent judicial rulings that will ensure fairness for all Arkansans.