LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel said Saturday he supports allowing same-sex couples to wed but will continue defending his state’s 2004 ban on gay marriages in court.
McDaniel, a Democrat serving his final year as the state’s top attorney, became the first statewide official in Arkansas to back same-sex marriage.
“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,” said McDaniel, speaking at the Associated Press managing editors convention.
Voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman, but that ban and others nationwide are facing legal challenges.
Seventeen states allow gay marriage, and federal judges have struck down bans in Michigan, Utah, Texas, Oklahoma and Virginia. An Arkansas judge is expected to rule by Friday in a lawsuit challenging Arkansas’s ban.
“I’m going to zealously defend our constitution, but at the same time I think it’s important to let people where I stand on the matter,” McDaniel said after his speech.
McDaniel said during a question-and-answer session with editors that there wasn’t any single incident that changed his mind about gay marriage.
“It’s become more and more difficult for me to accept the idea of anyone being treated as a second-class citizen,” McDaniel said.
McDaniel announced his support for gay marriage after criticizing U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder for telling his state counterparts in February they weren’t obligated to defend laws in their states banning same-sex marriage if the laws discriminate in a way forbidden by the Constitution.
McDaniel said he didn’t believe attorneys general should allow their personal views to influence whether they defend a state law.
McDaniel said he would not campaign for ending the ban while serving as attorney general.