As accurately predicted by many of our well known Arkansas editorial writers - the Hutchinson campaign has quickly tried to shift the focus of the governor's race to gay marriage, gay foster parents
, and as he called Mark Foley, that "Hollywood crowd." (I guess Ronald Reagan and Arnold wouldn't have been a member of that crowd?) All-gay, all the time is his new theme. Just like every other lame issue Hutchinson tries to score points on - this one will be a dud again Beebe. I haven't spoken to Beebe about what he "really thinks" about gays - but my feel is that he, like most Americans, prefers to let them live and let live. I think Beebe is probably relieved that we already have a "no marriage for you" amendment on our books here in Arkansas - so there really doesn't need to be much more said on the whole marriage issue, despite Hutchinson's supporters' ads to the contrary. Beebe has even gone so far as to return money from the Stonewall Democrats, a tiny group of gay Arkansas democrats who have the daunting task of moderating the anti-gay forces here in Arkansas. As other writers have characterized this act - this was Beebe's "Sister Soulja
" moment like when Clinton made an active and public break with a relatively unknown rapper who advocated killing white people. Beebe, like Clinton, wanted to show he was willing to take a stand against special interests and not beholden to political correctness. Like Clinton, it firmly positioned Beebe in the centrist or even conservative centrist area on the gay-rights debate. It’s a little hard to say what a centrist is as to the Arkansas gay-rights debate. I feel to be centrist as to that issue here in the state you only have to believe that gay people have the right to due process before being either executed of publicly vilified. I think privately most Arkansans are much more tolerant than most Arkansas politicians but at the same time the voters clearly were not in favor of gay marriage. My only point is - while Beebe may be very tolerant deep-down there is no way any swing voters out there will be persuaded Beebe has somehow adopted a gay agenda, if there were ever such an agenda to begin with.
Much like Hutchinson's lame attacks on Beebe's plan to phase out the grocery tax as opposed to repeal, Hutchinson hopes to get traction by attacking Beebe for failing to defend the Child Welfare Board's policy to ban gay foster parents.
This attack on Beebe is spurious as it is lame, in part because it is too complicated of an issue, and in part because the wisdom of the unanimous State Court's decision. Hutchinson correctly asserts that the Attorney General has the right to defend the State in any issue of constitutional significance. They are routinely given notice that an issue before a court may have constitutional implications and they just as routinely decline to intervene. This is for very good, practical reasons. In the case of the gay foster parent ban - like it or not - the Department of Human Services ( now the Department of Health and Human Services) has more expertise, more knowledge, and a closer relationship with the Child Welfare Board than does the Attorney General's Office. DHS vigorously defended this case against the ACLU who was represented by a staff attorney from New York City as well as local counsel. The subtext of Hutchinson's attack is that Beebe took a dive when given a chance to defend a policy preventing gay people being foster parents. If Hutchinson had been calling the shots at the time - who would he rather have defending the anti-gay policy - lawyers appointed by the Governor's office (many lawyers for DHS are grade 99 political appointees) or lawyers appointed by the Democratic Attorney General. Hutchinson seems to be saying that he would have preferred that Beebe defend the anti-gay policy rather than Huckabee's DHS staff attorneys.
Here is where I get all legal and technical - so you might want to stop reading now. I'm very familiar with the Howard case as it’s now known. I went to the circuit trial, I went to the Supreme Court oral arguments, and I'm friends with both the ACLU's original local counsel and the DHS attorney who handled the case. I predicted correctly predicted the outcome, that DHS would lose and the policy would be struck down. It not that I'm a genius legal prognosticator - my prediction was made simply on applying the facts to the law - which to me is all the Supreme Court did as well. What Hutchinson's frivolous attacks on Beebe's failure to defend the case leaves out is this: The Arkansas Supreme Court did not find that gay men or lesbians had any special rights, it did not say they had any special class status, and it did not say anything whatsoever about gay marriage. What Hutchinson also leaves out is that --- the DHS lawyers won part of the case. The ACLU and the plaintiffs claimed that any policy that discriminates against homosexuals should be subjected to what is referred to as strict scrutiny. That is to say, the ACLU argued that a policy that treated homosexuals different than other persons should be viewed in the same way that a law that treats one race different than another race is treated.
The Arkansas Supreme Court merely upheld what a lower circuit court held - that there was no credible evidence based on a thorough review of reputable scientific literature that has concluded that children raised by gay or lesbians parents are any different than children raised by straight parents.
I won't go into a long explanation why --- But in part because of the differences in an administrative policy, which is enacted by a non-elected board, and a state law, passed by the General Assembly, if the ban on gay foster parents is made into a law, which I think stands about 100% chance of happening, then as a law, not a policy, it would be upheld by the same Supreme Court. Beebe, like Dustin McDaniel, and Bill Halter, has already come out and plainly stated that he is again gay foster parents, which is a real shame. Once the legislature reconvenes - I predict they will make short shrift of this temporary absence of a law or policy preventing gay foster parents. This is a non-issue, Hutchinson knows it and right or wrong - Beebe's position on this issue is clear. I strongly disagree with all of these candidates’ views on this issue and this ban only hurts some of the neediest children in our State.
This may come as a surprise to my gay and lesbian friends - who are some of the best people I know - I'm not personally for legalizing gay marriage. Although I voted against the amendment - I did so because it also outlawed civil unions. In the end, I'm sympathetic to this position as to civil unions:
“I would tend to leave that to the state, as long as they wanted to not call it a marriage. Now if they’d call it a marriage, then I’d have a problem with it, because again, you’re redefining an institution, you’re not simply allowing people to live.”
This quote of course is by none other than our Governor Mike Huckabee.The Hoglawyer