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Sen. Hutchinson granted divorce; ex-speaker Gingrich seeking one

WASHINGTON (BP)–Sen. Tim Hutchinson, a conservative Republican from Arkansas and a member of a Southern Baptist church until recently, has been granted a divorce from his wife of nearly 29 years.
Meanwhile, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, a member of a Southern Baptist church, has filed for divorce from his wife and has told her of an extramarital relationship with a congressional staff member, according to a published report.
The court order granting Hutchinson a divorce came Aug. 16, only seven weeks after the senator filed. The only basis given for the divorce was that the couple had not lived together for at least 18 months, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. That was the only grounds required, said Benton County Chancery Court Judge Donald Huffman, according to the newspaper.
Hutchinson, a two-term member of the U.S. House of Representatives before his election to the Senate in 1996, was a member of Immanuel Baptist Church in Rogers, Ark., until this spring. At that time, Hutchinson requested the church remove him as a member, a staff member at Immanuel told Baptist Press. He told the church’s pastor, Tom Hatley, in a letter that he planned to attend a church in the Washington area, the staff member said.
Donna Hutchinson transferred her membership from Immanuel to First Baptist Church in Rogers earlier in the year, the staff member said.
Hutchinson declined to comment on the divorce, said his press secretary, Sue Hensley. When he filed for divorce June 29, Hutchinson said in a written statement, “There have been tremendous strains on our marriage during the past few years and we sought extensive counseling prior to taking this action.”
Hutchinson has campaigned as a defender of family values and has become known in Congress for his pro-family, pro-life positions. The senator’s Internet site describes him as a “dedicated advocate for American families.” He also has been a leader in the Senate in an attempt to hold China accountable for its persecution of religious adherents and for its coercive abortion policy.
He is an ordained minister, but his ordination was not by a Southern Baptist church, a Southern Baptist source in Arkansas told BP.
“We’re justified to be disappointed in this,” said Hatley, the senator’s former pastor, according to the Democrat-Gazette.
“These are tough days where every pressure is against the family. I cannot imagine the pressures they’ve been under. We fight for every marriage. When you lose a high-profile one, it’s discouraging, but we’ve won many and we’re not sure we’ve lost this one.”
Hatley, who said he counseled the couple to stay together, told the Democrat-Gazette there is still hope for reconciliation as long as neither remarries.
The Hutchinsons have three adult sons.
He is the first Republican to be elected to the Senate by the voters of Arkansas. He served eight years as a representative in the Arkansas legislature before being elected to Congress in 1992.
Asa Hutchinson was elected in 1996 to replace his brother as representative from northwest Arkansas and was reelected last year.
Gingrich, the Georgia congressman who led Republicans to a House majority in the 1994 election under the banner of the conservative “Contract With America,” informed his wife, Marianne, in May he wanted a divorce, according to an Aug. 14 report in The Washington Post. Later, he told her of his adulterous relationship with a congressional aide, Callista Bisek, who, at 33, is 23 years younger than Gingrich, The Post reported.
Recently, a Georgia judge gave Marianne Gingrich’s attorneys the go-ahead to question Bisek, who has worked for the House Agriculture Committee since 1995, according to The Post. The deposition is expected to occur in the next month, the newspaper reported.
The Gingriches are members of NorthStar Church, a Southern Baptist congregation that meets in Kennesaw, Ga.
Gingrich served 20 years in Congress before announcing he was stepping down as speaker and as a representative shortly after last year’s election, in which Republicans lost seats but maintained a narrow majority in the House.
The Gingriches have been married 18 years. His first marriage ended in divorce in 1981, according to The Post.

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