The Boy Scouts of America on Thursday ended its longstanding policy of forbidding openly gay youths to participate in its activities, a step its chief executive called “compassionate, caring and kind.”
60 percent of 1,400 participating Scout leaders approved the change. It does not extend to scout leaders, which still amounts to a tacit statement of its own. For that matter, it doesn't allow gay adults at the outer edge of Scout membership. Would an Eagle Scout still participating at age 18 be forced to quit?
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force called the change a "monumental step forward," but added, “Boy Scouts' leadership should stop clinging to a policy of exclusion and scrap the ban, once and for all. It’s long past time for a fully inclusive Boy Scouts of America.”
There will be fallout — in the short run, I'd guess, more negative than the positives will come from removal of an official exclusionary policy.
Hard as this step has been to achieve, I admit some softening in my feelings on the issue. But until all are treated equally, there's work to be done. And to the extent the fallen Eagles might have helped encourage this vote, there's nothing to regret.
The Boy Scouts of America may decide tomorrow to lift its ban on gay scouts (though not gay scout leaders).
As a symbol of opposition, NBC News found Eagle Heights Baptist Church in Harrison, Ark., whose pastor says his church will no longer sponsor a Cub Scout pack if gay boys are allowed to be members. Its leaders are trying to pray away the gay.
“We are faced with a very hard decision,” Pack 215’s Cubmaster, Carol Gilley, said last week. “This has been weighing heavy on my mind for a long time ... I finally told myself God is bigger than this problem so I'm just giving it over to God and I pray, I pray about it — that things stay the way they are.”
... For Gilley and others in her pack, talking about homosexuality with their children is a non-starter. Gilley said they refer to the debate as “the issue” around the boys rather than using the word “gay,” and pack secretary, January Studyvin said she is dreading having a “gut-wrenching conversation” with son Daylon, about the fate of the pack.
The Harrison church is undoubtedly not alone in its sentiment, though the Mormon Church, a major scouting sponsor, has given tacit approval.
Ralph Reed's enlistment in what would be only a half-measure is scant encouragement to change my earlier sentiments on the subject.
UPDATE: Here's the leader of the Boy Scouts on the compromise effort to dance on a head of a pin.
The day's not done, but I've seen two excellent films at the Little Rock Film Festival. "Muscle Shoals" was a tuneful history of the large and talented personalities behind the recording industry in that seemingly unlikely place. Even better was "Bridegroom," a love story that I wish somebody would put in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court soon.
Here's the Facebook page for "Bridegroom," the story of Shane Bitney Crone, who lost Tom Bridegroom, the love of his life, in an accident. It is a story about the travails of a same-sex couple deprived of rights others enjoy (visiting a loved one in a hospital, for example), along with the simple hazards of being gay in some families and some places. Hard to see how this story wouldn't touch just about anyone, though Tom's family erased Shane from their son's life, preventing him from attending the funeral.
The movie is the work of Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, who was inspired by the 10-minute YouTube above. "It Could Happen to You" was produced by Crone after his partner's death. I hadn't been aware of this viral phenomenon (3.8 million views) until today. The movie takes the story much farther, in a sensitive and complete way, fair even to the hard-hearted in their lives. Truth hurts, of course. Crone was at the screening this morning and talked about his life today and the movie — an audience winner at Tribeca Film Festival, where it was introduced by Bill Clinton. It was another occasion to be grateful for the LRFF.
Some late arriving news item:We've been writing about the complaint by California TV producer and former KAIT anchor Bryant Huddleston that an invitation for him to speak to this year's graduating class at Sloan-Hendrix High School in Imboden had been withdrawn because he is gay.
Since then, Superintendent Mitch Walton has said there was no formal invitation. Huddleston's father Steve, president of the School Board, has said there had indeed been discussions in January about having Bryant speak, but objections from two school board members, Preston Clark and Aaron Murphy, had led Walton to decide to have no graduation speaker at all.
Community opinion has been sharply divided, with many staking out the position on a local news website that it was a blow for morality to prevent a gay man (successful and a father notwithstanding) from speaking, no matter whether he intended to talk about homosexuality or not. Huddleston has said he was going to speak about continuing education and to encourage women, such as his sister, a graduating senior, to take positions of leadership.
Today, I asked for and received from Supt. Walton some e-mails he'd written to board members that touched on the subject. He still isn't granting interviews. But to those who think the matter was closed by Walton's previous — and continuing insistence — that no invitation was made, I think you might agree that Steve Huddleston's story dovetails with some of this new information.
January 21, in a lengthy e-mail about various matters, Walton mentioned to board members:
I am planning to ask Col. Witt to speak at our Graduation exercise in May.
A State Police spokesman said State Police Director Stan Witt, himself from Imboden, had never received an invitation to speak from the superintendent. Huddleston has said, after Walton mentioned Witt, that he reminded the superintendent of their earlier conversation about having his son return home to speak at his alma mater. March 5, Walton wrote the following to the School Board
I meant to mention this to you at the last board meeting, but did not get the "graduation speaker" on the discussion log. A few months ago, Steve H had asked to give consideration to allow his son, Bryant Huddleston, for commencement speaker at the graduation ceremony for the class of 2013 in May. Since Steve was board president and Madicyn was graduating, he wanted to include Bryant as the speaker.
I told Steve that I did not have a problem with this. I usually mention who the graduation speaker will be to all the school board members (and usually it is later in the spring before I have somebody lined up). Please let me know you thoughts. I will need to confirm with Bryant as soon as possible if okay with other board members. Thanks!
The document sent to me added:
Reply from one board member
Sounds like a good idea to me. Robert
By Huddleston's account, two of the five members expressed reservations. No invitation was extended. Bryant Huddleston eventually wrote his letter of protest.
The superintendent's own e-mail indicates he intended to ask Bryant to speak. Then it didn't happen. Is there really much doubt that Steve Huddleston has reflected accurately what happened, that his son's sexual orientation made him an unacceptable speaker?
Walton is trying to cover for the board that hires him. He seems, at the outset at least, not to have been influenced by what I've been led to believe is general knowledge of Bryant Huddleston's sexual orientation. But community wishes are strong. Check out Imboden Live to see how deep feelings about homosexuality run and how openly the antipathy is expressed. I hope even those who hold those views might have a shred of sympathy for Bryant's account of how difficult his high school years had been as a closeted gay youth and why he decided to make a stand against prejudice for the benefit of others in the same position.
Bryant didn't speak because he's gay. Many in the community, including a leading banker and dentist who are school board members, support that decision. Sad.
* REPEAL OBAMACARE: As promised, teabagger Glenn Gallus of Garland County has begun trying to qualify a petition for the ballot to repeal the legislature's implementation of Obamacare through Medicaid financing of private insurance coverage. Attorney General Dustin McDaniel has rejected his first try at a ballot title and popular name. McDaniel said Gallas' proposal had not fairly and accurately summarized the legislation being referred.
* CATCHING UP WITH AN ESCAPED KILLER: The Detroit newspaper carries a good AP feature on a convicted Arkansas killer, Lester Stiggers, who escaped in 1970 and has been living openly in Michigan for 43 years thanks to sanctuary granted by a moderate Republican governor who disapproved of conditions in Arkansas's then-medieval prisons. Arkansas has recently renewed efforts to bring him back. The law's on Arkansas's side, though Michigan sympathizers think justice won't be served by extradition.
* NORTH LITTLE ROCK ADMINISTRATOR TO TAKE OVER DOLLARWAY: State Education Director Tom Kimbrell has named North Little Rock Assistant Superintendent Bobby Acklin to head the Dollarway School District July 1. Frank Anthony has been serving as interim superintendent since the state took over the troubled district last June.
* THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL TO DC: Enough dreaming. South Carolina voters in a majority white predominantly Republican district will not send a Democrat to Congress, not even when the Republican is the conniving, philandering, cold-blooded Mark Sanford. The race has been called for Sanford, about 54-46 last i looked.
Interesting story from Texas on the Texas legislature. Republicans, who control nearly everything in Texas, apparently suffered huge blowback from their war on women in the last legislative session that cut health care to women in the battle to destroy Planned Parenthood.
Result: A "grand bargain," engineered by a female Republican legislator from the Houston area.
No abortion bills have, so far, made it to the floor of the legislature. Plus, nobody is offering crippling amendments to the legislation to restore health services, including family planning, to women.
“A lot of people really felt they got snookered by some of the people in the pro-life movement about that family-planning issue,” said State Senator Bob Deuell, Republican of Greenville, who has been a strong advocate for restoring family-planning financing for low-income women by way of primary care.
Dr. Deuell, a primary care physician, is an ardent opponent of state money going to Planned Parenthood clinics. But he said the vitriol of some abortion opponents last session had prevented the state from pursuing good policy decisions. He recalled being compared to Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, when he argued that cutting family-planning services would lead to more unwanted pregnancies, and therefore more abortions and more children living in poverty.
Texas is actually going to increase family planning spending, though no money may go to places affiliated with abortion clinics. Some direct federal grants have managed to keep some money flowing to Planned Parenthood family planning clinics.
No Arkansas Republican would believe this. Their votes were automatic on these issues, though Democratic strength in a House committee did manage to derail some of the anti-woman agenda, including a bill to stop sex education funding in Little Rock because the program was provided by Planned Parenthood.
School Superintendent Mitch Walton has issued a statement posted at the website, which triggered this news event in the first place. In short, he says everybody has it wrong and Imboden will never again have outside commercement speakers. The statement:
Sloan-Hendrix has had individuals to speak at graduation in the past. Contrary to what has been said, no invitation was extended this year to anyone. As superintendent, I have the authority to decide about who the speaker will be or whether we have a speaker at all. The school board does not vote on speakers for graduation.
This year, Mr. Steve Huddleston, a board member, suggested his son as a speaker. Bryant Huddleston graduated from Sloan-Hendrix in 1990 and went on to success in the entertainment industry. He was never invited by me to be the graduation speaker. After visiting informally with board members, no agreement was reached as to who should be invited to speak. Therefore, my decision was to do what had been discussed in the past—to discontinue the use of outside speakers and thereby shorten an already lengthy graduation program.
Sloan-Hendrix has exceptional graduates. Graduation this year and in the future will feature only student speakers. Graduation is a celebration of the accomplishments of Sloan- Hendrix students and a time to let those students shine for their families and the community at large. We welcome the presence of everyone in the community to share in this event.
Superintendent Sloan-Hendrix School District
Bryant Huddleston commented on Facebook:
I read it over the phone to my father. He blew out my right ear from laughter
I also will add some relative links about past practice on graduation speakers.
In 2005, a state representative, David Cook.
In 2006, the man who's now head of the state Education Department, Tom Kimbrell.
In 2007, a Pocahontas doctor.
In 2009, a minister from the Imboden Church of Christ.
In 2010, an official from Williams Baptist College.
In 2011, a director of communication for Entergy Services.
In 2012, Paul Austin, an Imboden native and director of the Arkansas Humanities Council.
Don't know about 2008. Maybe somebody tried to sneak some gay in that year, too, and no agreement could be reached.
PS — "visiting informally with school board members." If two members were present in any discussions — formal or informal — the superintendent was in violation of the state open meetings law. Round-robin conversations to avoid the open meetings law can also be problematic when decisions are reached in such a fashion.
The previous post relates the story of Bryant Huddleston, a former TV news anchor and successful TV producer whose invitation to speak at his high school alma mater, Imboden's Sloan-Hendrix High School, was withdrawn because at least two School Board members didn't think a gay man should speak at graduation. As he poignantly recounted, it was a continuation of the difficult experience he had as a student at the high school.
I was interested to note, too, a link to a unit on civil rights taught across several classes at the high school this year. It focused on the struggle by African-Americans and the work included several flyers developed by students, including the one I've shown at the top. Perhaps next year the unit could be expanded to other people struggling for equal treatment under the law.
Minutes of school board meetings don't reflect the vote reported on Huddleston's scheduled appearance at his sister's graduation ceremony. This is the vote in which Huddleston said his father, School Board President Steve Huddleston, a retired state trooper, was reportedly not allowed to participate. Huddleston identified School Board members Preston Clark of Imboden and Dr. Aaron Murphy of Imboden as the key votes against his appearance. This news account indicates, however, that the decision was reached privately by the superintendent and some of the board members.
Steve Huddleston said he spoke to the other board members, and that two said they wouldn't oppose his son speaking but that two others "thought there would be backlash if we allowed an openly gay man to speak."
Pop quiz for an Imboden civics class: When government officials deny speech on account of the potential message, do any of our founding documents come to mind?imbodenlive.com websiteabout the withdrawn speaking invitation.
... This decision saddens me for many reasons. The first being I know Bryant. He is a fellow Class of 1990 Sloan- Hendrix graduate. I moved to Imboden my junior year of high school and he was one of the first and one of the few people who made me feel welcome as a shy new kid coming into a school where tight-knit friendships went back years.
He’s gone on in life to meet some impressive personal success as a television producer in California and a father to a son whom he is quite proud of. Bryant’s sisters are Sloan-Hendrix graduates as well and his father, Steve Huddleston, has served on our school board for ten years.
This makes me sad because I love this little town and I want the best for our school. I know the men involved in making our schools decisions and these are not bad men. This isn’t a town of full of bigots nor do I believe that intolerance and prejudice is something the majority of people who live here condone . If a few people who represent our school denying Bryant the opportunity to speak at graduation based only on his sexual preference and their personal beliefs then is that the right decision for our community as a whole? I don’t see how it can be.
No comments are being accepted on the website currently.
By Shane Deitert
The graduate of a northeast Arkansas School has been uninvited to speak at Sloan-Hendrix graduation this year. Bryant Huddleston feels because he is out as a gay man that Superintendent Mitch Walton told him he couldn't speak because two school board members felt there were concerns for the community.
Huddleston, now a single dad and, TV Writer and producer in Los Angeles, grew up in Imboden. He got his degree in broadcasting from Arkansas State and felt he could share his story and might help a kid deal with the situation he had growing up. Huddleston's father Steve is a retired Arkansas State Trooper and President of the Sloan-Hendrix school board. Huddleston's younger sister is set to graduate from Sloan-Hendrix this year.
Huddleston wrote a letter to Walton expression his feeling about the situation. Read the letter below.
To the Sloan-Hendrix School Board and Superintendent Mitch Walton:
Dear Mr. Walton,
I am writing to express my disappointment in your recent decision to recant your invitation for me to be the keynote speaker at my little sister, Madicyn's, graduation from Sloan-Hendrix High School this year, based solely on the fact that I am gay.
What baffles me Mr. Walton is that you chose to disregard the fact that I grew up in Imboden, and my career accomplishments—KAIT news anchor and reporter, successful television producer in Hollywood, producing shows such as E! News, Access Hollywood, etc., —were dismissed and instead you chose to make me a hot bed controversial issue.
Mr. Walton, your decision forced the members of the Sloan-Hendrix School Board to vote on my participation but what was equally unfair is that you forced the President of the Board Steve Huddleston (my father), to abstain from voting, thus forcing a tie and then declared there would be "no speaker this year," ultimately nixing any opportunity to share my pathway to success with the graduates. Was this in the students' best interest or is this a decision based on religious beliefs?
During my years at SHHS, I was the student body president for two years in a row. I also helped lead our Student Council to receive state-wide recognition for the first time— all despite being bullied on campus for many years. Mr. Walton, your decision here is like being bullied again twenty-three years later. Personally, it's both sad and disappointing. I'm disappointed that board members Preston Clark and Aaron Murphy, who represent the school that my sisters and I hold so dear, fear that I would be unfit as a role model, and I'm saddened that you Mr. Walton, appear to be more concerned with what your congregation might say on Sunday, rather than doing what is right for the students.
I understand that Mr. Clark and Mr. Murphy both stated there would be "concern from the community" if I were allowed to speak. I'm curious—did you think my speech would have focused on recruiting youngsters and passing out "Go Straight to Gay" cards over sharing the tools that I used to achieve success? You might be surprised to know that "recruitment" does not and never will work. And just for the record, just so we're clear, my words were not going to address a "certain agenda," but I was hoping to empower your students to continue their education. My speech would have also touched on the importance of women, like my sister, who will go out into the world and know that they can now pull their chairs right up to the table of equality. To encourage them that they can no longer sit in the back and let men make the important decisions for them. And for that matter, letting them know that someday a woman or two or three can become a member of the Sloan-Hendrix School Board. After all, there's an opening, since my father will resign from the Board later this month.
I could just sit back and let this slide, but if I did, the discrimination that has taken place here would go unnoticed like it has so many times in history. Unless my arguments here cause you to reevaluate, nothing will change. But what must change, is the way we treat our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth because, News Flash, the world is changing and it starts in our homes, our schools and yes, even in our places of worship. The suicide rate amongst LGBT teens is staggering. As Superintendent, Mr. Walton—I hope you are aware that LGBT youth already attend classes on your campus. They are going from class to class with a fear of being outed or being treated horribly by their classmates—so adding educators and mentors to that mix prohibits these teens from thriving. The Board represents them too, and by silencing me, you're telling those students that it isn't okay to be who they are.
Being gay is not all that I am and it's certainly not something I chose. I'm a loving son, brother, a professional, and a fantastic friend. But what I am first and foremost is a father who tries every day to do the best he can to raise a kind and loving son. My little boy came into my life from the Los Angeles foster care system. I was the luckiest man in the world when, as a single parent, the adoption was complete. I'm raising him to understand that there are all kinds of people on our planet, all kinds of families and all kinds of love. While you want me to steer clear of the commencement podium, I am asked to speak annually to hundreds of potential parents about the importance of adopting these forgotten children.
Finally, I heard someone say that progress comes from those who are willing to walk a mile in someone else's shoes. We are currently fighting against inequality in our country. It's a fight—by the way—which we will ultimately win. Your decision to ban me from speaking solely because I'm gay is not unlike the arguments white men made years ago, to not allow black children to share the same school house halls with white children. It's the same thing, Mr. Walton, it's called discrimination. And, in closing, in the words of Eleanor Roosevelt:
"...Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home - so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world."
Today, by your actions, that small place is in a small town called Imboden, where decisions are made around a small table, surrounded by five men and a School Superintendent. So, next time you're faced with an important decision, I hope you take time to think twice, have a proper dialogue, and most importantly choose to be on the right side of history.
Bryant Huddleston, Sloan-Hendrix Class of 1990
Cry for Arkansas until this can't happen here. Mr. Huddleston, you're welcome to send us your graduation speech. We'll be happy to print it. When Huddleston's father resigns from the School Board, the remnant will be a vivid representation of the need for more education. If there was an actual vote, the nays should be identified in the public record, not just by Huddleston's letter. So far, the superintendent has refused to identify them. They should be proud, shouldn't they, for standing up for Arkansas values?
The decision by NBA journeyman Jason Collins to announce he is gay is making headlines all over today. He's the first among the major pro sports to come out of the closet while still an active player. The Human Rights Campaign says he "changes the face of sports forever." Tyro Twitterer Bill Clinton tweets: "I'm proud to call Jason Collins a friend."
The attention is a commentary on a lot of things, not least of them being the primacy of sports in the American consciousness. It is also a comment on the fact that — despite dramatically improving attitudes and circumstances — it is still not easy to be gay in America. But others will stand on Jason Collins' shoulders. And equality will come, even in Arkansas, though we'll battle Oklahoma and Alabama for last place.
Discrimination isn't restricted to this region:
A former gym teacher at a Catholic high school in Columbus, OH is fighting to get her job back after she was fired after her partner's name appeared in her mother's obituary.
..."The Catholic Church respects the fundamental dignity of all persons but must insist that those in its employ respect the tenets of the church. Personnel who choose to publicly espouse relationships or principles that are contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church cannot, ultimately, remain in the employ of the church," said Diocese of Columbus spokesman George Jones.
Hmmmm. Might this affect people who worked, say, for a hospital operated by a joint board governed by an Arkansas state entity and a church-related health organization?
U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor reiterated to reporters today that he's opposed to marriage equality.
That's more or less consistent with what he's said repeatedly.
More or less.
Except there was that one time last week when he seemed to say he was undecided, right after he and an aide had taken pains to say he was opposed.
So make him a firm no. Today.
Though he might be evolving on the question of whether homosexuality is a choice or not. Or not.
This takes a separate item. I reported not long ago that U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor had walked back the comment attributed to him in which he stated his belief that homosexuality was a choice.
In that same interview, Pryor had said — as he has many times — that he opposed gay marriage. News stories today have repeatedly labeled him as one of four Democratic U.S. senators who remain in opposition to marriage equality.
Just to be sure, after aide Michael Teague told me about Pryor's mitigating remarks on whether homosexuality is a chosen orientation or not, I still asked him whether Pryor remained opposed to same-sex marriage.
At 5:48 p.m., I received this e-mail from Michael Teague:
His position has not changed.
No surprise. So I confidently put a message on Twitter, responding to Lt. Gov. Mark Darr, when he tweeted a news report that Pryor was "silent" on gay marriage. Wrong, I confidently said, based on all his published statements and a re-confirmation from aide Teague. Not that I was happy to say it, but wanted the facts straight.
Somebody was wrong, all right. Me. And even wronger than I first knew. Pryor went beyond silence.
Because I later read this from a taped interview with KFSM/KXNW, Channel 5, after Mark Henry posted a Twitter note on it. Straight from the horse's, er, mouth:
“I would put me down in the undecided category,” he [Pryor] said of same-sex marriage. “I did talk with some friends of mine in the gay and lesbian community over the last week or so. We talked about this issue. We also talked about a question I received in the office not too long ago where they asked whether being gay was a choice or whether you were born that way. I told them, I said, ‘Honestly I’ve never really thought a lot about that.” Maybe a lot of people think about that. I haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about that. But one of the things I hear from them is they feel very strongly that it’s not a choice for them, and I respect that. I’m not going to dispute that. I appreciate that, and I appreciate their honesty. For a lot of these people they just really open their heart to me and talked about some of the struggles they’ve had over the years with their sexual orientation. I respect that and appreciate their patience, and I appreciate their honesty.”
My apologies to Lt. Gov. Mark Darr for describing his remark as wrong.
My apologies to all for accepting anything from Mark Pryor's office at face value.
My apologies to Arkansas voters that, at this moment, this pitiful muddle is the best we can hope from a U.S. senator, who — despite his inconstancy — has a decent voting record and is, on the issues, leagues better than likely opponent Tom Cotton, the Club for Growth candidate. As tortured as Pryor's response has been, I"ll grant you that I think Mark Pryor a kind person who bears no animus to gay people.
But ... As I said before, those inclined not to like him in the first place will never believe him no matter where he comes down on this issue, or on guns or on just about any other hot topic. Can you blame them?
(To Pryor's credit, he said he leaned toward the "pro-life" side of the abortion debate. While he chose the slanted labeling preferred by opponents of women's medical rights, he did at least add that "there are circumstances where the woman should be able to make that decision." That's better than you'll get out of any Arkansas Republican.)
Enough already. The Friday night line is open. I close with this:
His aide Michael Teague provides an update:
Senator Pryor participated in an editorial board meeting this afternoon in Northwest Arkansas (Doug Thompson, Rusty Turner, etc) During which the choice issue was discussed.
I wasn’t there but this is what I was told he said.When I got asked this question I honesty hadn’t given it much thought and I said ultimately I didn’t know — Since then I’ve had time to visit with my friends in the gay and lesbian community and they very strongly believe that this is not a choice for them. I respect that, I understand where they’re coming from, I will not dispute them. I appreciate their time, openness and patience.
Teague has objected since that the Democrat-Gazette only posed the particular question about choice to Pryor, and not any of the others in the congressional delegation. He also said the newspaper pressed Pryor harder for answers, while accepting no comments from others, including potential future rival opponent, Republican Rep. Tom Cotton. The D-G has declined to talk to me about the circumstances by which Pryor was singled out. Nonetheless, the answers were his own. His opposition to marriage equality is unchanged.
* TAX DODGER EXXON MOBIL: Mad yet about the nasty pipeline oil spill in Mayflower? Mad yet that Exxon is controlling access to the scene, including airways? Mad that Exxon apparently isn't telling the whole truth about spread of oil to Lake Conway waters? Mad that this gunk isn't oil for purposes of being taxed to help finance oil spill cleanup funds of the federal government? Maybe it might make you mad to read an Americans for Tax Fairness fact sheet on the incredible tax giveaways enjoyed by Exxon Mobil, maybe the richest corporation in the world.
Still not mad? Is your name U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin, who's never met a pipeline, oil company or tax preference for a rich corporation he didn't like.
Only four Democratic U.S. senators remain opposed to equality, Mark Pryor, Mary Landrieu, Tim Johnson and Joe Manchin. Perhaps Pryor can make a plus of his staunch opposition in his re-election campaign next year. Sad truth is that, while many in Arkansas might share that feeling, they won't credit Pryor for joining the side of discrimination, any more than they'll credit him for bedding down with the NRA on gun legislation intended to give the gun lobby cover against Obama administration efforts to improve gun safety.
Pryor has yet, by the way, to walk back a public statement issued in his behalf by staff that homosexuality is a matter of choice.
Sen. Joyce Elliott will try again today.
A resolution for Arkansas to ratify the federal Equal Rights Amendment is on the Senate State Agencies Committee agenda at 10 a.m. this morning.
The only point of interest is what fanciful argument will be mounted by Republicans to defeat the concept of equal rights yet again. Same-sex bathrooms? Gay marriage? Uppity wives?
UPDATE: The old Supreme Court chambers at the Capitol was SRO for the hearing. A big crowd of women, 150 by one estimate, turned out in support of the measure.
Sen. Eddie Joe Williams, predictably, asked why the ERA is necessary. Elliott provided good instruction on the lack of gender reference in the Constitution and the fact that legislation has been required to give women equal rights in some areas. Sen. Bobby Pierce worried about the military. Elliott responded that, of course, equal rights doesn't mean requiring giving the same assignment to people unable to carry out an assignment — such as physical demands for serving in combat. Elliott said job assignments should ask the same of Joe and Josephine. No one has a right to do something they cannot do. Or to be prevented from doing something they CAN do on the basis of gender.
And YES!!!!! There's the Family Council's Jerry Cox trotting out the forced mixing warhorse, along with other "unintended consequences." He fears women would be forced to share college dorm rooms with men. He also suggests ERA could be used to force public funding of abortion. (Are men getting abortions now? No, but a New Mexico ruling based on a state amendment supports this argument.) Sen. David Johnson said he saw nothing in the amendment that could allow the scenarios Cox depicted. As if that matters.
Former Republican legislator Dan Greenberg joined the mixed-bathroom, mixed-dorm, diminished-military, forced-abortion-payment chorus. He said affirmative action could be eliminated by the ERA. (Who knew? A conservative who claims to be in support of affirmative action.) Senator Johnson again argued that the ERA would only further support existing laws, not knock down equity laws. Senator Pierce jammed Greenberg pretty good for all the hypothetical problems he envisioned. Greenberg had pooh-poohed hypotheticals offered by opponents of the Voter ID bill he supported.
Greenberg was quoted by my in-room observer as closing by saying "equality in all circumstances is not always the best policy."
Really? Inequality is good?
Former legislator Lindsley Smith spoke in support and was widely lauded on Twitter accounts I've seen for her call for strict scrutiny on gender discrimination that an amendment would provide. Here's her remarks.
IN CONCLUSION: Senator Elliott closed by saying the ERA would give consistency that laws do not provide.
A motion for a do-pass failed 3-5. Robert Thompson, Johnson and Pierce voted for it. (CORRECTION: I recorded vote incorrectly originally as including Elliott, but she's not a member of the committee and doesn't vote. She just presented the measure.) The other members of the committee are Eddie Joe Williams, Jane English, Bryan King, Gary Stubblefield and Jimmy Hickey, all Republicans.
I'd take the German lager over the Texas Tea any time, any day.
"Arkansas Boys State next week. They're going to roll out instant polling of the delegates…
eLwood?????? (Hello???.....Echo!!! - crickets chirping from eLwood's home right now)
1soni - how bout…
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