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Outgoing Arkansas governor still opposed to gay marriage, but has eased on civil unions

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LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas — Outgoing Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe said Wednesday he remains opposed to same-sex marriage despite recent rulings against his state's ban, but said he has eased his opposition to civil unions.

The two-term Democratic governor said he has shifted on some gay-rights issues, but still believes marriage is defined as a union between a man and a woman. A federal judge last month struck down Arkansas' ban on gay marriage, and the state Supreme Court is expected to rule soon in a separate case.

"In terms of discrimination in employment, discrimination in the ability of people to have insurance, to the extent that civil unions encompass that, I have moved in that direction," Beebe told political columnist John Brummett at a forum on his governorship. "I still believe, and this is the way I was brought up, I still believe marriage is between a man and a woman."

U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker suspended her ruling against Arkansas' ban, pending a potential appeal by the state. The state Supreme Court is deciding whether to uphold a Pulaski County judge's decision that the prohibition violates the Arkansas and federal constitutions.

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, a Democrat who is leaving office in January due to term limits, announced earlier this year that he supports legalizing same-sex marriage but would continue defending Arkansas' ban in court. McDaniel has said he won't decide whether to appeal Baker's ruling until after the state Supreme Court rules.

PHOTO: Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe participates in a forum answering questions about his career in Little Rock, Ark., Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2014. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)
Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe participates in a forum answering questions about his career in Little Rock, Ark., Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2014. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)

Beebe spoke at a fundraiser for LifeQuest, a nonprofit that provides classes for retirees. Portions of the interview with Brummett were expected to be broadcast on Little Rock television station KATV's Talk Business show Sunday morning.

Beebe is leaving office in January due to term limits, and is being succeeded by Republican Gov.-elect Asa Hutchinson.

Beebe, who served 20 years as a state senator and four as attorney general before being elected governor, reiterated that he doesn't plan on running for public office again. He said he may teach or serve on some boards, but doesn't plan to work as a lawyer or lobbyist.

"I encourage good people to run, and I don't want to be too much of a hypocrite," Beebe said. "But I would I argue I've served my time."


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