by Max Brantley
Tennille joined a gay rights organization yesterday in noting improving attitudes in Arkansas, particularly against discrimination in jobs based on sexual orientation. He said Arkansas could lift its economic development by repealing discriminatory laws.
Arkansas Republican Chair Doyle Webb finally came through at 4:30 p.m. today, after Tennille's remarks yesterday at a 10 a.m. news conference. The Arkansas envisioned by Republicans is one without affirmative action for minorities; with resegregating schools; with discrimination in employment and family law against gay people; that denies science (whether it be evolution or climatology), and that favors legal implementation of the religious views of a narrow sector of the population.
I think, over the long haul, it's a losing agenda. But it doesn't mean the Republicans are wrong in the short electoral run about whipping up on gay people for political gain. It's mean, it's ugly, it's decidedly non-Biblical, but its modern-day Southern Republican to the core. The party release:
Arkansas GOP Chairman Doyle Webb sent letters this afternoon asking Democrats Mike Ross and John Burkhalter to share with Arkansas voters whether or not they agree with the controversial statements made by AEDC Director Grant Tennille yesterday. Tennille stated yesterday that Arkansas needed to embrace gay marriage in order to attract more jobs to the state.
Webb said: “Mike Ross claims he will focus on job creation and economic development, but instead of focusing on a repeal of Obamacare, repealing burdensome regulations, or simplifying our state’s tax code, some Arkansas Democrats think gay marriage will turn Arkansas into a jobs engine. Is that what Mike Ross thinks?”
Webb also said that: “If John Burkhalter is going to be Mike Ross’ economic development czar, Arkansans deserve to know if he agrees with Mr. Tennille’s notion of economic development.”
Only in Republican Arkansas would it be controversial to espouse equal rights and the benefits of developing a state climate that is welcoming to all people.
PS — Mike Ross said he still believes marriage is only between a man and woman. Bill Halter said he opposes discrimination on ground of sexual orientation, but said he doesn't want attention deflected by a straw man argument about the law of Arkansas, not currently proposed for change. Asa Hutchinson dishonestly interpreted, as the GOP did, Tennille's statement as suggesting the end of discrimination was somehow the sole idea he had for economic development. Of course it isn't. But making Arkansas a welcoming place isn't a bad element. Hating on gays still a political winner in Arkansas? It would appear most think so.