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Snyder stands out

Congressman alone in opposing proposed gay marriage ban in the state Constitution.

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Of the six members of the Arkansas congressional delegation, U.S. Rep. Vic Snyder is the only one who will not vote for the November ballot initiative to ban gay marriage in the state Constitution. Despite casting votes against a similar effort to amend the U.S. Constitution, U.S. Sens. Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor said they support the state amendment. U.S. Reps. Marion Berry, John Boozman, and Mike Ross told the Arkansas Times they favor defining marriage as between a man and a woman only in both the federal and state Constitutions, and Boozman pointed out that he is a cosponsor of the Federal Marriage Amendment. Snyder explained his opposition to the state proposal in an e-mail to the Times: "As one Arkansas voter considering the proposal, some of my questions are: (l) I don't understand the need for complicating the state Constitution since Arkansas law already clearly states marriage is a union between a man and a woman. It works best if family and marital law is done by statute, not by constitution. (2) The language in the proposal seems unnecessarily complicated and may have unintended consequences; for example, does it impact corporations who have health insurance plans that cover unmarried partners?" As one of the only federal officeholders facing a serious re-election challenge, Snyder's stance may involve considerable political risk. "My sense is that someone could be safer on this by going along with what the other members of the delegation have done," said Art English, a UALR political science professor. "We have a socially conservative electorate. Most Arkansans think marriage should be between a man and a woman. If Marvin Parks [Snyder's Republican opponent] could make the argument in very basic terms - and he certainly will - he could score some points." (On Monday, after the Times queried Parks' office, the candidate issued a press release attacking Snyder for his stand.) According to the most recent campaign filings, Parks has raised $388,400 to Snyder's $461,502, a far smaller margin than exists between candidates in any other federal race in Arkansas. That means Parks has the resources to move a message. Snyder doesn't see gay marriage as a campaign issue. "I think the most important issues facing voters in this race are national security, the economy, health care and education," Snyder said. "As a former Marine, Vietnam veteran, and a family doctor who works very hard on the Armed Services and Veterans Affairs committees, I am confident the voters will continue to support me." English made a similar point. "Congressman Snyder has his supporters," he noted. "A lot of people respect him for his independence. But he is going to have to explain his position. If he can't do that as well as he has in the past, it may cost him some votes."

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