Arkansas candidates exchange barbs over gay foster parent ban

Posted on 10 Aug 2006 at 7:39pm
By Andrew DeMillo – Associated Press

Republican lieutenant governor nominee questions whether Democratic opponent agrees with the State Supreme Court’s reversal of the ban

LITTLE ROCK Republican lieutenant governor nominee Jim Holt on Tuesday questioned whether his Democratic opponent agreed with the state Supreme Court’s reversal of Arkansas’ ban on gay foster parents.

Democratic nominee Bill Halter, a former Clinton administration official, replied on Tuesday that he supports reimposing the ban and his campaign spokesman accused Holt of using the ruling to advance his political career.

The lieutenant governor hopefuls traded criticism over the court’s June 29 ruling that said the state cannot ban homosexuals from becoming foster parents. Holt targeted comments Halter made days after the ruling saying he didn’t believe it should be used as a political issue.

“This controversy is very much a political issue,” Holt said. “This issue will determine what happens to numerous children who have in most cases already experienced deep pain … Halter’s position will reflect his philosophy on other important issues related to this topic.”

Two years ago, Holt was able to win a surprising 44 percent of the vote in his run against Democratic U.S. Blanche Lincoln. Holt tied his candidacy to a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage that passed overwhelmingly that year.

Gov. Mike Huckabee, a Republican, has said he hopes lawmakers will reimpose the ban on gay foster parents but said he doesn’t expect to call a special session on the issue. Huckabee is term limited and leaves office in January.

Democratic gubernatorial nominee Mike Beebe and Republican nominee Asa Hutchinson have both said they oppose allowing gays to become foster parents.

Holt, a state senator from Springdale, said Halter has been quiet on whether the state should reimpose the ban.

Halter on Tuesday said he had talked with legislators who indicated they would pass such a ban during the regular legislative session next year.

“I would support this type of legislation if, after thorough research and deliberation, it is found to be constitutional and in the best interests of Arkansas’ foster children,” Halter said.

Halter last month said he was unsure if the state should reimpose the ban and said he wanted to study the ruling further.

“I’d like to not have people try to use this for any sort of political gain and let’s get some more data and get the studies that we need,” Halter said. “Let’s make sure that we have people work well together in the future to come up with a response legislatively.”

Halter’s campaign spokesman Bud Jackson accused Holt of doing little during his time in the Senate to help the state’s foster children. Jackson described Holt’s legislative record as “lackluster” and focused on several of his votes, including his opposition to increasing the minimum wage.

“Jim Holt has demonstrated that he is willing to use Arkansas’ most vulnerable children as a political football to advance his own political career,” Jackson said.

Holt defended his work as a lawmaker and said he wasn’t satisfied with Halter’s stance on the foster parents ruling. “”‘If’ is a big word and he has placed so many conditions on his decision that everyone in Arkansas can see he is just pandering,” Holt said. “There is not one bit of conviction in his answer.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, August 11, 2006.

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