Tuesday, May 13, 2014

TOP STORY >> Minister officiates same-sex Nuptials

Leader staff writer

Local legislators, candidates and a Sherwood pastor weighed in on same-sex marriages Tuesday following a Pulaski County judge’s ruling that the state ban on them was unconstitutional.

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel has filed that appeal plus a motion with the Arkansas Supreme Court for a stay. The court’s decision on the motion to stay could be handed down this week.

Rep. Tim Griffin (R-Ark.) said via e-mail, “I believe that Friday’s decision overturning the will of 75 percent of Arkansans is wrongly decided and will be overturned on appeal.”

Randy McCain, the pastor of Open Doors Community Church, and his husband are one of the couples who petitioned Judge Chris Piazza’s court to rule on the constitutionality of the ban.

McCain and Gary Eddy have been together for 22 years and were married in New York City’s Central Park in 2012.

They soon realized the marriage that was recognized by the federal government was not recognized by Arkansas. That led the two men to become a party in the lawsuit.

Since Friday’s ruling, McCain has wed between 70 and 80 same-sex couples.

He said, “I am overjoyed that we’ve gotten this far.”

The pastor described the recent weddings as sights to behold. “They just burst into tears…There was so much love in that courthouse rotunda,” McCain said. “I could hear the angels singing and thought this must be what heaven is like…Rejection feels like evil and acceptance feels like God.”

He was proud that Arkansas is now the first Bible Belt state to allow same-sex marriage.

“I think it’s important because a lot of people say gay people are asking for special rights, but we’re only asking for the same rights my parents had for 54 years,” McCain continued.

“How are we hurting society?” he asked, adding society is made stronger by people committing to one another.

McCain said those rights include same-sex partners being able to file joint tax returns to receive larger refunds, to own houses they lived in after their loved one passes away and to see their critically-ill partners in the hospital.

The pastor also pointed out that Arkansas officials probably argued that the state shouldn’t become segregated because it wasn’t what the majority of its people wanted.

But the U.S. Constitution won out with its assertion that everyone is equal, McCain said.

State Rep. Patti Julian (D-North Little Rock), said, “Legally, it’s probably correct and I certainly understand the reasoning of the opinion. I know that it certainly flies in the face of what voting Arkansans wanted and I understand why they’re unhappy.”

What she couldn’t understand was at least one senator and one representative pushing to impeach the judge.

Julian said House Speaker Davy Carter (R-Cabot) called that “a slippery, slippery slope” away from the separation of powers system.

But, she added, the circuit court should have issued a stay of the ruling “that puts the counties in a very difficult decision” by being unclear as to what is required of them.

State Rep. Doug House (R-North Little Rock) said he is against same-sex marriage for biblical and secular reasons, but he didn’t want to repeat the religious argument against it.

As for the secular argument, House said, “The family is a centuries-old institution and the family exists for the purpose of propagating the species.”

He said marriage evolved to protect family by making men responsible for their children, not allowing them to sell property without their wife’s permission, prohibiting spousal abuse and permitting an at-home spouse to draw social security. Divorce laws also play into the role of marriage today, he said.

All of that helps offset the physiological disadvantages of women who bear children, House concluded.

He said the government has been chosen to protect the institution of marriage.

But, the House added, he is not against same-sex civil unions made for financial and other reasons.

“I could care less what two people contract to do,” House said.

Pastor McCain rebutted the representative’s point of view. “I don’t think that argument holds water,” he said.

The pastor argued that there are many heterosexual couples allowed to marry that cannot have children, including those who wed beyond their childbearing years.

McCain also told The Leader he has homosexual friends who have children, including two men who used a surrogate to have twins. One child was biologically connected to one of the fathers and the second was biologically connected to the other father.

McCain said he believes the difference in marriages and civil unions are that marriage is a religious institution.

The pastor said he would agree with the government giving heterosexual and homosexual couples civil unions while churches would be allowed to perform marriages.

The rights would be attached to the civil unions, McCain explained.

State Rep. Joe Farrer (R-Austin) agreed with Griffin. He said he tries to not get into the religious aspects, but his problem is with one judge changing a law 75 percent of voters approved.

“One man shouldn’t be able to change that,” Farrer said.

State Sen. Eddie Joe Williams (R-Cabot) concurred. He said, “I guess disappointed is the right word.”

Pulaski County Justice of the Peace Karilyn Brown, who is running for the Dist. 41 seat in the state House of Representatives, said, “I personally believe that Judge Piazza has made a very inappropriate decision. He’s disregarded the will of the people of Arkansas…I support traditional marriage.”

She argued that marriage has been between a man and woman since “the beginning of time” and that is what works best for society, the economy and children.

Lonoke County Justice of the Peace Tim Lemons, who is running for the Dist. 43 seat in the state House of Representatives, said, “Personally, I am against same-sex marriages. But what is as equally troubling to me is that a local county circuit judge has the power to overturn a portion of the state constitution that was approved by 75 percent of the voters. The judge’s actions on this issue have demonstrated that our state constitution can be altered by a select few, which is most troubling.”

Alan Pogue, (R-Sherwood)who is seeking the Dist. 41 seat in the state House of Representatives, said, “Their lifestyle choice is their lifestyle choice. I’m really disappointed that one judge can overturn the rule of 75 percent of the voters.”

He said he didn’t understand how an amendment to the constitution could be ruled unconstitutional.

Pogue added, “I don’t think it’s about whether gays have the right to marry.” He argued that Piazza’s ruling is about the judiciary disregarding democratic principles.

Trent Eilts, (R-Lonoke County), running for the Dist. 14 seat in the state House of Representatives, said, “I adamantly disagree with (Piazza).”

Eilts supports impeaching the judge, especially since Piazza didn’t stay the decision until the Arkansas Supreme Court weighs in on it.

“What he did looks more political in nature than legal,” Eilts said.