by Max Brantley
Announced candidate Bill Halter and candidates-in-waiting Mike Ross and John Burkhalter reportedly attended the annual dinner of Just Communities of Arkansas.
JCA, formerly the National Conference of Christians and Jews, has a long history of working for understanding across racial and religious lines. Its gatherings are as good a measure as any of the establishment liberal community in Little Rock. (No, they don't hold it in a phone booth.)
In recent times, JCA has had a marked increase in emphasis on promoting tolerance toward sexual minorities.
Interesting to me: 1) Among the honorees this year (traditionally chosen in part for gate appeal) was First Lady Ginger Beebe. You might recall her husband's play for tolerance included actually attending a meeting of the Stonewall Democrats, where he rather bluntly told the group of gay Democrats to expect no support, or seemingly much sympathy, from him on marriage or any other kind of equality for gay people. 2) Of the three Democratic candidates on hand, I'm aware of only one who's ever made public statements in defense of equality on sexual orientation grounds. Bill Halter spoke directly and strongly during the 2008 election season for defeat of the ballot initiative (approved but struck down in court) aimed at preventing gay people from being adoptive or foster parents. Mike Ross, conversely, has been a steadfast supporter of discrimination against gay people, whether in marriage, parenting or employment. I guess he WAS willing to be seen with this dangerous bunch, a bridge too far probably for some Republican candidates.