The Inquizator: Rita Sklar
Rita Sklar has been the director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas for 20 years. The New York native has led Arkansans’ battle to maintain their rights at the legislature, in the courts and in one-to-one communications. Under her guidance, the ACLU has challenged the new Voter ID law that even its proponents admit is a tool to help Republican candidates, successfully overturned the 12-week abortion ban legislated in 2013 and the state’s ban on foster care and adoption by same-sex couples, and fought for free speech and against state-imposed religion in school and at the Capitol.
To do that kind of work for 20 years in Arkansas, you have to have a sense of humor.
Where did you go to college and what was your major?
Which year? I went to one college and three universities over 10 years, and wound up with a major in religious studies and a minor in “how to pay student loans off for the rest of your adult life.”
How the heck did a New Yorker like you end up in Arkansas? Are you an Arkansan or a New Yorker now?
Like the traditional woman I am, I followed my man (now ex-man) whither he wentest. I’m a New Arkansan.
Is there anyone you would deny a civil liberty to? Or like to?
Hitler. Really. And maybe whoever came up with the idea of putting TVs in restaurants.
Do you ever regret working for the ACLU and not as a brain surgeon or in a similarly lucrative profession?
I tried brain surgery once. Icky poo!
What was the best piece of advice you ever gave anyone, and did he or she take it, and is he or she grateful?
Never give advice. No and no.
What was the worst piece of advice you ever got?
Follow your dreams.
What do you do now that you never dreamed you would do as a teen-ager growing up in New York?
I grow flowers. I kayak and go camping. I go into the woods. I work for the ACLU. And I live somewhere other than New York or Paris.
Have your good looks ever gotten you anywhere?
Who was the most famous person you ever dated?
Bela Fleck. I went to see him play in a bluegrass band in New Jersey. My father was waiting outside with a baseball bat when he dropped me off at 1 a.m. No second date. 🙁
Who was the most famous person you ever turned down for a date?
Alexander Godunov, who committed suicide 15 years later.
If you could change one thing about Little Rock, what would it be?
More sidewalks. And more live music venues! That’s two.
Do you expect the day will come when you no longer spend a miserable several months at the state Capitol every year? If you do, what will be the first cruise you take?
First of all, I cherish each and every moment I have the honor and opportunity to spend at the state Capitol.
Is there a legislator who you believe will someday ditch the Republican Party and become someone who understands that we the people are the government and that when we help our fellow man, all of us benefit?
I don’t understand the question. Everyone in both parties believes that.