Gay issues are hot topic in several Arkansas elections

Posted on 02 Oct 2006 at 6:55pm
By Staff and Wire Reports

Republicans making opposition to same-sex marriage, adoption by gays prime messages in races for governor, lieutenant governor, Congress



Jim Lendall

Jim Lendall running as the Green Party candidate for governor in Arkansas must win 3 percent of the vote for the party to automatically have a spot on the ballot in the 2008 presidential election. But his support for the rights of same-sex couples may not help him any in the race.

“The reason I’m running is they need to have at least one competent person running. People need a choice other than the two-party system,” said Lendell, who announced his candidacy last year but wasn’t assured of his spot on the ballot until August, when a federal judge ordered the state to recognize the Green Party.

Lendall and the American Civil Liberties Union had sued over the number of signatures the state required to place third-party candidates on the ballot.

Lendall, 59, served four terms as a state representative two years as an independent and six years as a Democrat and said that, over the years,he became more disillusioned with the Democratic Party.

His platform shows sharp differences with the two major party nominees Democrat Mike Beebe and Republican Asa Hutchinson. Lendall supports the decriminalization of marijuana for medical use, a moratorium on the death penalty and says he would push for a repeal of the constitutional ban on gay marriage approved by voters in 2004.

“I call it the anti-marriage amendment,” Lendall said. “Basically we’ve singled out a group of American citizens and said, “‘you can’t have these rights.”‘

Lendall has also said he’s opposed to reinstating a ban on gay foster parents that was overturned by the state Supreme Court in June.

Both Beebe and Hutchinson have said they support reinstating the ban, likely through legislative action. And both oppose gay marriage in the state.

In the race for lieutenant governor, Democrat Bill Halter, a former Clinton administration official who abandoned his gubernatorial bid to run for the state’s No. 2 spot, has overshadowed Republican Jim Holt in fundraising by nearly 14-to-1.

Holt, a state senator who surprised observers by pulling 44 percent of the vote against a popular U.S. senator in 2004, has focused his campaign on hot-button social issues such as gay marriage which was a hallmark of his failed 2004 run against U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark. He has also called for a reinstatement of a ban on gay foster parents that was overturned by the state Supreme Court earlier this year.

Holt says if the Legislature doesn’t reinstate the ban, he’ll push for a constitutional amendment banning gays from adopting children or becoming foster parents.

Halter has focused his campaign on education and economic development, calling for a lottery in a Bible belt state that has historically rejected any expansion of gambling. He does back a reinstatement of the gay-foster-parent ban but has not focused on social issues in his campaign.

In the battle for Arkansas’ 2nd Congressional District, which includes eight counties in the central part of the state, the difference between Democrat Rep. Vic Snyder and Republican challenger Andy Mayberry is practically black-and-white, a lot like the early episodes of “The Andy Griffith Show,” which Mayberry has turned to often while challenging a five-term incumbent for a seat in Congress.

To Mayberry, homosexuality is an “abomination,” life begins at conception and federal courts will one day reverse a decision legalizing abortion-on-demand. He also wants to amend the U.S. Constitution to ban gay marriage and protect the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Snyder, on the other hand, supports civil unions for gay couples, is for abortion rights, voted against the Iraq war and blames the Bush administration for many of the country’s woes. He said he senses that the nation is not heading in the right direction.

Both candidates believe their values best fit the district, but voters will have the final say on Nov. 7.

Mayberry, 36, said he’s been described as an idealist for frequently referencing “The Andy Griffith Show” for its “good morals and ethics and common sense.”

Snyder, 59, a five-term congressman, says civil unions for gay couples would allow them access to each other’s medical records and finances. He says Republicans have been using the issue to draw attention away from GOP failures in the last few years.

“They are trying to shake and bake this thing like we’re on a basketball court doing a fake,” Snyder said. “It’s not going to work this election.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, November 3, 2006.

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