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(Little Rock) (AP) – Arkansas’ top economic development official is supporting same-sex marriage and says that treating gay couples equally under the law could make the state a leader in the South on the issue and promote economic growth.

Arkansas Economic Development Commission Executive Director Grant Tennille joined the head of the Human Rights Campaign and other advocates at the state Capitol Monday to call for supporting same-sex marriage. Arkansas is 1 of 37 states that bans gay marriage.

Tennille said he believed Arkansas could be a leader on the issue and that treating same sex couples equally could help the state, particularly in attracting high-skilled jobs.

Gov. Mike Beebe, who appointed Tennille last year, said Tennille wasn’t speaking on behalf of his administration. Beebe, a Democrat, said he still opposes legalizing gay marriage.

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