Lawmaker Says Religious Theme is Dominating '05 Arkansas Legislature

MARCH 21, 2005 - Posted at 7:11 a.m. CST

LITTLE ROCK, AR - State Representative Buddy Blair of Fort Smith served twelve years in the House in the 1980s.  He won election again in 2002, and says the Legislature now if far more concerned with social issues than in the past.

Blair, a Democrat, says there is a religious theme dominating issues at the Arkansas Legislature.  So Blair introduced a nonbinding resolution asking colleagues to reaffirm the separation of church and state.  The measure failed.

Blair says he sees supporters of President Bush pursuing a conservative social agenda.

So far in 2005, the Arkansas House launched bills to prohibit unmarried cohabitating adults from adopting children or serving as foster parents, to banish from school textbooks definitions of marriage other than between a man and a woman and to make it illegal for a female under 18 to get an abortion without a parent or guardian's consent.

The House and Senate also have passed legislation authorizing a state "In God We Trust" license plate.

Representative Roy Ragland, a Democrat from Marshall says the bills reflect the values of Arkansans.  President Bush took 54 percent of the vote in the November election.

But Blair says the state is far from unanimous in support of a conservative social agenda.  He says many state residents are concerned about what the Legislature is doing.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)