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Friday, July 6, 2012

Right-wingers blast Jay Barth appointment to state Board of Education

Posted By on Fri, Jul 6, 2012 at 4:48 PM

Haters are going to hate. (I separated this from the open line since it has grown in scope.)

DEBBIE PELLEY: Fears Barth agenda.
  • DEBBIE PELLEY: Fears Barth agenda.
You could argue that wackjobs are best ignored. Even wackjobs like Debbie Pelley of Jonesboro, scourge of humanism, immigrants, city planning, sex education and other evils for decades now. But Pelley illustrates — if you had any doubt — that the battle for human rights and dignity is far from over. Silence in the face of bigotry emboldens the bigots and discourages the timid. So I share the headline on her e-mail today about Gov. Mike Beebe's appointment of distinguished professor Jay Barth to the state Board of Education.

Beebe Appoints a "Married" Homosexual to State Board of Education

You'd have to ask Pelley why the word married is in quotes. Barth was legally married in New York, a marriage I was pleased to announce here. But facts challenge Pelley, who after noting the bar on same-sex marriage in Arkansas and other states writes:

...Our media in Arkansas won't even publish gay marriage announcements. Yet Beebe appoints Jay Barth, a married homosexual who had to go to New York to marry, to the State Board of Education that oversees the education for every public school student in AR. I wonder what curriculum changes Beebe and Barth are planning to implement.

She's encouraging letters to legislators and newspapers about this appointment. My letter is simple: Great appointment Gov. Beebe. We need more Jay Barths in state government, fewer Debbie Pelleys.

TOO LIBERAL: Jerry Cox, leader of the anti-gay Arkansas Family Council, says Jay Barth not qualified, too liberal. He never questioned qualifications of previous Beebe appointees.
  • Queerty
  • TOO LIBERAL: Jerry Cox, leader of the anti-gay Arkansas Family Council, says Jay Barth not qualified, too liberal. He never questioned qualifications of previous Beebe appointees.

I wrote the above before learning from Channel 4 that Jerry Cox, leader of the Arkansas Family Council, one of the state's oldest formal hate groups, has pitched in. Read some excerpts of what he told Channel 4 on Barth's appointment on the jump. Cox says it's not anti-gay bigotry that motivates him, but Barth's lack of qualifications for regulating education. Funny. He never issued a statement of concern about the banker, lawyer or Latina activist who got Beebe's last three appointments on the board, none whom could point to classroom time at any level, whether grade school or college. This is a key point of Cox's critique of Barth, after his sexual orientation. Cox also notes that Barth writes for the Arkansas Times, which is about as bad as it could possibly get with that group of religious oppressors. I might mention that the Democrat-Gazette did an extensive interview with Barth about his education credentials, attention it also had not given Beebe's last three appointees, including Joe Black, the banker whose salary has been paid by grant money from the pro-charter school Walton Family Foundation.

Maybe we should send Debbie Pelley and Jerry Cox to a conscisouness raising session with Chad Griffin, the Arkansas native who now heads the Human Rights Campaign.He talked in this profile with Jeannie Nuss of the AP about the burden of growing up gay in Arkansas. He spent his first day in that office in Arkansas, where he grew up to slurs in school, to make a point. (Cox, you may remember, has opposed efforts to protect gay people from discrimination in the workplace and bullying in school because this constitutes "special rights." He believes in the religious freedom to torment people you despise, good Christian that he is.)

Chad Griffin, by coming to Arkansas, wanted to show that he stands with young gay people in small towns across the country, not just on the coasts.

"One's state's borders should not determine one's rights," he said

Tell that to Debbie Pelley and Jerry Cox.

Back story on Beebe and Barth: You might remember that Beebe made a bit of history by speaking to the Stonewall Democrats, a gay rights group. But he disappointed many by announcing his opposition to same-sex marriage. The group, in which Barth has been active, issued a conciliatory statement after. It said then:

No, Gov. Beebe did not pleasantly surprise us and say everything we wanted to hear last month. But in the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “Honest disagreement is often a good sign of progress.”

Sure enough.

EXCERPTS FROM CHANNEL 4 REPORT ON THE FAMILY COUNCIL REACTION TO BARTH APPOINTMENT:

Setting aside his sexual orientation," Cox said, "Dr. Barth might be a good pick for the State Board of Higher Education, considering he works in higher education. People are asking what a liberal political science professor, who probably hasn't spent a day in elementary school since he left sixth grade, has to offer in the way of direction for K-12 schools and students. I didn't hear the Governor answer that question

... I have to question if Dr. Barth's views on same-sex marriage and homosexuality may find their way into public school policy recommendations," Cox said. "Most people can't totally separate their values from their vote, and I would expect Dr. Barth to be no different when it comes to the policies he promotes. We have to remember that he has been appointed to help oversee every student in every public school in Arkansas.

"It is unfortunate that Governor Beebe has appointed someone who seems so entirely mismatched for the position of State Board of Education. The Arkansas Legislature defers a lot of policymaking power to the Board of Education because they trust the governor to appoint knowledgeable individuals who are deeply familiar with the workings of our education system—and who know what needs to be done to improve it. The State Board of Education makes policy for all Arkansas public elementary and secondary schools, and Dr. Barth will serve until June 2019. Between his lack of familiarity with that system and his views that evidently are very far removed from those of the typical Arkansan, Dr. Barth just doesn't seem like the right fit for the job of making education policy for our K-12 students.

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    I've mentioned before that because the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and its affiliated newspapers in Northwest Arkansas won't publish marriage announcements by same-sex couples, the Arkansas Times is happy to provide that service.
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