Monday, July 8, 2013

Arkansas attitudes improving on gay equality; state leader speaks up

Posted By on Mon, Jul 8, 2013 at 10:56 AM


  • Human Rights Campaign
GRANT TENNILLE: At news conference, the state AEDC leader urged state to lead in striking down laws that discriminate against gay people.

  • Brian Chilson
  • GRANT TENNILLE: At news conference, the state AEDC leader urged state to lead in striking down laws that discriminate against gay people.

Here's the update from Leslie Peacock on the news conference I mentioned earlier, organized by the Human Rights Campaign and the Arkansas Economic Development Commission.

Two brave lawmakers; Grant Tennille, the head of the state’s economic development agency, and the national director of the Human Rights Campaign called for Arkansas to lead the South in passing laws to guarantee full rights for the state’s gay, lesbian, transgender and queer community, including the right to marry.

Tennille said it was imperative that the state follow the U.S. Supreme Court’s lead in striking down laws prohibiting same-sex marriage, which in Arkansas would require a constitutional amendment.

Arkansas has a "tortured history" when it comes to the U.S. Constitution's declaration of freedom, "but we have an opportunity to move first and be a leader in the country, and especially the South, to say all our citizens will be treated equally under the law," Tennille said.

Tennille started his speech with a reference to British codebreaker Alan Turing, who committed suicide after pleading guilty to an English law prohibiting sodomy. He said Arkansas, to both attract jobs and keep the state's intellectual capital from leaving, must create an atmosphere of equality. "It's an incredibly simple concept," Tennille said. Arkansas needs to be a place where all are welcome."

Tennille added that he didn't think he'd change Gov. Mike Beebe's mind on his opposition to marriage equality. Beebe at least allows Tennille to speak freely. Indeed, Beebe said later that Tennille was entitled to his opinion but his belief that marriage should only apply to a man and woman hadn't changed.

Rep. Deborah Ferguson, D-West Memphis, who introduced the speakers, said it was time to let those in the LGBT community know "that we stand with them as allies," and Rep. Greg Leding, D-Fayetteville, said he would urge "all Arkansans to go out and change hearts and minds." UALR student Ty Stacey talked about coming out to her family at age 18 and how difficult it was but that she was helped by role models like former state Rep. Kathy Webb of Little Rock, the only open gay lawmaker to serve in the legislature. Other speakers were James Rector, head of the Northwest Arkansas Center for Equality, which has worked with students to fight bullying, and Ruth Shepherd, director of Just Communities of Arkansas, who pledged JCA's support in efforts to bring about change.

CHAD GRIFFIN: Now the work begins.
Chad Griffin, the Arkansas native who is the national director of the Human Rights Campaign and who was one of the leaders in the fight for marriage equality in California, where same sex marriage is now legal thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court's, said it was time to "double down" to pass a same-sex marriage law in Arkansas. He cited the HRC poll data 61 percent of Arkansans under 30 say "everyone should be free to marry who they love."

He got a rousing reception in the noon hour during a Q&A with former state Rep. Kathy Webb at the Clinton School. The questions he fielded included several from gay Arkansans with marriage plans, all also cheered. While happy about the Supreme Court decisions, he said organizing work, political campaigns and court cases will be necessary to move equality forward. Invaluable, he said, were those who give a human face to the issue. And he urged consideration of the religious dimension of equality, given the commandment to love neighbors.

Across town, at the putatively Christian Family Council, a leader in efforts to discriminate against gay people under the law, leader Jerry Cox said he was sure most Arkansans still favored discriminatory legislation.

Here's the poll summary, in a release from the Human Rights Campaign:

... The bipartisan poll found that 61 percent of Arkansans under age 30 support marriage equality, and 63 support legislation that would ensure no one could be fired because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

“The Court’s historic rulings point to the emergence of two Americas,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “In one America, LGBT people are achieving more equality under the law than ever before. In the other America — places like Arkansas — LGBT people are still struggling to gain equal protections and benefits. But we can draw hope from these new poll numbers — Arkansans by and large reject discrimination against their friends and loved ones; and the younger generation is fully on-board with marriage."

The poll was conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and Target Point Consulting from June 26-30, 2013.

Additional findings:

· 82 percent of people mistakenly believe federal law protects LGBT people from employment discrimination.

· 90 percent of people of faith in Arkansas agree that the Golden Rule — treating others as we ourselves would wish to be treated — extends to LGBT people.

· Nearly 70 percent of Arkansans support anti-bullying laws against LGBT youth.

· 64 percent of Arkansans believe it does more harm than good when a religious leader condemns LGBT people.

The polling memo is available online and can be accessed here.

“We have a sense of both optimism and urgency," added Griffin. “But we must translate our hope for the future into action. Every person in Arkansas deserves to live in communities where they feel safe and respected. We have much work ahead of us to achieve that goal here in Arkansas, but we are up to the task.”

The link to fuller poll results shows overall opposition to marriage equality continues in Arkansas. But the number was 55-38, compared with the 75 percent that approved the marriage ban in 2004. But 61 percent of those younger than 30 support marriage equality. Time will march on. Opposition is, literally, dying out.

More immediately encouraging is the finding that more than 60 percent support state or federal legislation to bar job discrimination on account of sexual orientation. A much larger percentage erroneously thinks this is already the case. Our Republican congressional delegation and Republican legislative majority understand the current circumstances well. They've voted repeatedly in favor of continuation of legal discrimination in employment based on sexual orientation.


  • Human Rights Campaign

Tags: , , , , , ,


Speaking of...

Comments (9)

Showing 1-9 of 9

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-9 of 9

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

  • Arkansas Supreme Court denies rehearing in death penalty challenge, but delays mandate

    The Arkansas Supreme Court today refused to rehear the case denying Death Row inmates information about drugs used by the state in the lethal injection process.
    • Jul 21, 2016
  • Welspun layoffs: Another example of corporate welfare folly

    Layoffs at the Welspun pipe plant in Little Rock are a reminder of the folly of corporate welfare and the inability of Arkansas to separate itself from global economic forces. See the Fayetteville shale. And keep a watchful eye on that Sun Paper pulp mill proposed near Arkadelphia.
    • Jul 21, 2016
  • Hamburg bank manager gets 21 months for theft

    Melinda Gwin, 49, of Hamburg has been sentenced to 21 months in federal prison and ordered to repay $210,875 stolen from the First National Bank of Crossett. She was sentenced in El Dorado federal court, according to a Justice Department news release.
    • Jul 21, 2016
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Pay commission meets; no cameras running

    The independent citizens commission that is reviewing with state lawmakers, state officials and judges deserve a pay raise will meet at 8:30 a.m. today at Room 272 of the Capitol. Too bad it's not going to be streamed live on the web for greater public accountability.
    • Dec 30, 2014
  • A tool to track Defense Department hardware sent to local governments

    Much has been written about the distribution of heavy military armament — from grenade launchers to armored personnel carriers — to local governments, from coroners to school districts.
    • Dec 6, 2014
  • That Arkansas-Texas bowl game; divided loyalties for many UA students

    Texas and Arkansas will play in a bowl game, which undoubtedly will stir sentiments about an old rivalry among old Hog fans, but perhaps not so much among Texans, now in good supply in Fayetteville themselves.
    • Dec 8, 2014

Most Shared

  • Tackling autism, child by child

    An Arkansas Children's Hospital doctor is testing a new drug that targets one of a host of ailments the highly individual disorder can cause.
  • Tom Cotton flat on his big night

    Sen. Tom Cotton's big Republican National Convention speech was nothing to write home about.
  • 1957 all over again

    Last week, the State Board of Education voted to ignore federal courts and allow school district transfers that will encourage segregation.
  • Death penalty lives

    Barely clinging to its flagging life, the death penalty got a merciful reprieve last month from the unlikeliest quarter, the Arkansas Supreme Court.
  • Drinking culture

    Here we go again. At the rate these campus sexual abuse sagas are making news, it's reasonable to ask what college administrators can possibly be thinking about.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Escaped killer captured


    • on July 23, 2016
  • Re: Tip: State closing Rehab hospital beds in Hot Springs

    • With patient safety concerns at an all-time high, it may be time to think about…

    • on July 23, 2016
  • Re: Open Line

    • Like pieces of a puzzle . . . or possibly an Illuminati move: toward what…

    • on July 23, 2016



© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation