Given the state's conservative leanings and voters' support of a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, it's hard to measure progress for gay rights advocates, said Hendrix College political science professor Jay Barth.Still, there is the fact that Gov. Mike Beebe appeared before the Stonewall Democratic Caucus this past week. And that the state Supreme Court overturned a ban on unmarried foster and adoptive parents. And that a new anti-bullying law includes sexual orientation as a protected category.
"In a place as conservative as Arkansas, the status quo is — somewhat counter-intuitively — 'progress' when compared to the anti-gay actions taken in states surrounding Arkansas," said Barth, who is openly gay....
And then there was this, buried several graphs down in the linked story:
The University of Arkansas' annual Arkansas Poll last year showed that only 19 percent of very likely voters believed gay couples should be allowed to legally marry and 30 percent supporting civil unions. Forty-nine percent said there should be no legal recognition of a gay couple's relationship.Yeah, "only" 19% - but that would have been a high figure almost anywhere in the country just a decade or two ago. And note this, and note it well: Even in Arkansas, 49% of the public is prepared to accept some form of legal recognition of same-sex couples. And that is twelve percentage points higher than it was just four years earlier. I call that noteworthy. In fact, I call it progress.
[m]ore than 100 Methodist ministers in New England have pledged to marry gay couples in defiance of the denomination’s national leadership, which maintains a ban on same-sex unions.They thus join with some 400 clergy in New York, Illinois, and Minnesota who have signed similar statements.
Roughly 1 out of 9 Methodist clergy in the region signed a statement this month pledging to open their churches to gay and lesbian couples.
“We repent that it has taken us so long to act,’’ they wrote in the statement.
The signers are risking punishments ranging from a warning to being defrocked as they press the General Conference, which meets every four years to set policy and will convene next April, to give up the irrational prejudice.
Bishop Peter D. Weaver, head of the church’s New England Conference, who thus oversees pastors in the region, has made it clear he wants there to be no change in church policy. Since church hierarchies have shown historically that they do not take kindly to doctrinal disobedience, the risk of punishment is not trivial, leading Alexx Wood, spokeswoman for the New England Conference, to say "It is quite a statement that they’re doing this."
And so it is.