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Asa's talk is cheap 

Gov. Asa Hutchinson image
  • Gov. Asa Hutchinson

Some comments by Republican candidates and elected officials about the possibility that the U.S. Supreme Court will upend all state laws banning same-sex marriage:

Former Gov. Mike Huckabee, who'll announce for president May 5 in Hope: "We are moving rapidly toward the criminalization of Christianity."

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, another presidential candidate:  "There is no room for Christians in today's Democratic Party."

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, on "Meet the Press": He said he opposed same-sex marriage, but added, "... I also recognize if we talk about this issue we need to talk about it in terms of tolerance, we need to talk about it in terms of nondiscriminatory policy, the diversity of the work place."

Question: Identify the substantive differences between the three men on equal rights for gay people.

Answer: None.

Political distinction: Asa Hutchinson seems so much nicer about his belief in legal discrimination. But the result is more dangerous. You can be falsely lulled, as the national press has been, into believing Hutchinson is a moderate. This serves him well. The coverage of his appearance emphasized that word "tolerance," not the bruising reality of Arkansas, one of a baker's dozen of marriage equality holdout states.

Consider. Hutchinson supports:

Arkansas's ban on same-sex marriage.

Flouting of the full faith and credit aspect of the U.S. Constitution, which says that legal acts in one state (marriage of a cousin, for example) are also legal in states with different standards. Legally married same-sex couples are denied marital benefits by Hutchinson's administration.

State law that legalizes discrimination against gay people in employment, housing and public accommodation.

A state law to prevent cities and counties from protecting gay people from discrimination. (Yes, I know, he didn't sign it. He didn't veto it, either, and he didn't ask legislators to pull it down.)

A state "religious freedom" law to give religious cover to people who want to discriminate.

State employment policy that permits discrimination against gay people. Hutchinson refuses to issue an executive order to the contrary.

This is tolerance?

It is tolerance of the sort that I saw in the South in the 1960s. Cultured Southerners of a certain class would never utter the coarsest racial epithet. No, they referred instead in gentle, patronizing tones, to "the Nigras." They didn't beat black people (though they knew people who did). But they believed they were doing something akin to noble charity by paying a pittance for washing, ironing, babysitting, lawn mowing and other hard toil.

Many truly loved their family retainers. They shed real tears at their passing. But worship with them? Imagine marriage of each other's children? Help them register to vote? Tolerance had its limits.

I was assured by a supporter of Hutchinson — when I remarked on the emptiness of his tolerance talk — that "my people" would be a lot worse off with another Republican in charge.

Overlook the "us" and "them" construct from a follower of a party that likes to claim tolerance. Consider instead: Does explicit rejection of your equal worth hurt any less when it is delivered with a smile and a pat on the back?

Politically, of course, Hutchinson's disingenuous spin (including his use of his culturally evolved son Seth as a sympathy shield) serves him well.

Maybe I'm too harsh. Maybe we're seeing a Hutchinson evolving from his Bob Jones U. roots. Maybe someday he'll appoint a gay person to the state Board of Education, as Gov. Mike Beebe did. And, when the Family Council again objects in hate group fashion, he'll refer them to a relevant Bible passage about brotherly love.

"Go to hell," would be more satisfying. But we must talk tolerantly, right?

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