Arkansas Attorney General Supports Gay Marriage, But Will Keep Defending Ban In Court

At an event on Saturday, Arkansas’s Attorney General announced that he supports gay marriage, making him the first statewide official to do so. But it’s not going to do LGBT Arkansans much good, as Dustin McDaniel will keep defending the state’s gay marriage ban in court regardless of his personal feelings. It’s the kind of move that seems designed to irritate everyone on all sides of the issue equally.

“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,” McDaniels announced. “It has become more and more difficult for me to accept the idea of anyone being treated as a second class citizen.”

However, he has apparently accepted that idea nonetheless, as he’ll continue defending the ban in court.

“I’m determined to live up to my obligation, and that includes with regard to our state’s definition or marriage,” McDaniels said. “I’m going to zealously defend our constitution.”

Arkansas voters banned gay marriage in 2004. A lawsuit was filed seven years later, and a state judge is expected to issue a ruling by Friday. If past is any precedent, the ban won’t survive: In the wake of the Supreme Court’s landmark 2013 ruling in favor of marriage equality, gay marriage bans have been struck down in Michigan, Utah, Texas, Oklahoma and Virginia.

While McDaniels maintains that he’s obligated to defend the constitution in court no matter what, that opinion isn’t unanimous among state attorneys general. In California, Attorney General Kamala Harris, along with Governor Jerry Brown, refused to defend the state’s gay marriage ban in court, while Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring went so far as to join the plaintiff’s side in attempts to overturn his state’s ban.

Oddly enough, the Human Rights Campaign praised McDaniel for his conversion, even though it seemingly won’t have any practical effect on Arkansas law.

"Today Attorney General McDaniel adds his voice to an ever-growing chorus of Americans from across the country that are standing up for the right of all couples to marry_and there is no turning back that tide," HRC President Chad Griffin said in a statement released by the group. "As a proud Arkansan, I know it's only a matter of time before committed and loving gay and lesbian couples in my home state get to enjoy all the rights and benefits that come with civil marriage."

McDaniels is a second-term Democrat currently serving his last term as the state’s top attorney.