LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Republican Mike Huckabee's record on women's rights is coming under increased scrutiny, including his endorsement of the Southern Baptist Convention's stance that women should "submit graciously" to their husbands and his opposition to sending women into combat.
Huckabee, an ordained Southern Baptist minister, defended his record Thursday, saying he appointed many women to high positions in state government and on his staff during his 10 1/2 years as Arkansas governor.
"If you look at my cabinet, I had more women in my cabinet and on my staff in key positions, including chief of staff, than any other governor probably in Arkansas history," Huckabee said on ABC's "Good Morning America."
Huckabee had been asked on the TV show about his support of the Baptist convention's statement of beliefs on marriage. The former Arkansas governor and his wife Janet signed a full-page ad in USA Today in support of the statement with 129 other evangelical leaders in 1998.
"A wife is to submit graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ," the convention says in its statement of faith. Baptist Press reported that the 1998 ad was addressed to denomination leaders and said: "You are right because you called wives to graciously submit to their husband's sacrificial leadership."
Huckabee was supported by 17 percent of women in a nationwide AP-Ipsos poll earlier this month, making him roughly even with Rudy Giuliani and John McCain for the lead among female voters among GOP presidential contenders.
Huckabee has faced questions before over his support of the marriage statement, with a rival in his 1998 re-election campaign citing the statement and accusing Huckabee of opposing equal pay for women.
"It's one thing for Mike Huckabee to think a wife should submit graciously to her husband, but it's another to have her work for less than she's worth," Democratic challenger Bill Bristow said in a 1998 ad.
Huckabee's campaign then cried foul and accused Bristow of taking a swipe at Southern Baptists.
In 1992, when Huckabee was a candidate for the U.S. Senate, he said in a 229-question survey submitted by The Associated Press that he opposed placing women in combat roles in the military "because of my strong traditional view that women should be treated with respect and dignity and not subject to the kinds of abuses that could occur in combat."
However, Huckabee's traditional view of women apparently doesn't extend to the political arena.
In the same survey, Huckabee was asked about the number of women serving in the House and Senate. He wrote: "I really cannot say whether or not the presence of so few women has made any difference in Congress, but women are certainly as capable as men of serving in the Senate."
That view also extends to the White House. Huckabee said Thursday in the ABC interview that he fully expects a woman will be elected to lead the country someday — he just hopes it won't be next year since he wants the job.
"Will there be a female president? Of course there will. And should there be? Absolutely," Huckabee said.