HRC Blog

Eureka Springs Becomes First City in Arkansas to Endorse Marriage Equality

Michael WalshPost submitted by Michael Walsh

Despite a state constitution that specifically prohibits same-sex unions, on November 12, 2012, Eureka Springs became the first city in Arkansas to officially endorse the idea by a vote of the city council.
Two leaders of a low-profile campaign to persuade the council to adopt a resolution supporting marriage equality spoke in favor of the measure.  No opponents of marriage equality appeared at the meeting.
Supporter, Lamont Richie, a former city official and currently a Carroll County Quorum court judge, was blunt about the resolution's intent.  "This will put you on record as supporting marriage equality," he said. 

Michael Walsh, a retired journalist who authored the city's precedent-setting 2007 Domestic Partnership Registry -- the first and still only one in the state -- told the council, "True equal marriage rights are a long way off in Arkansas and the South. We know that, but the resolution before you is powerfully symbolic and potentially influential. Tonight, you can jump-start history."
Before his comments, Walsh submitted a 33-page list containing the names of more than 700 supporters, including former Eureka Springs Mayor Dani Joy and AR State Rep. Kathy Webb.

Of the petitioners, Walsh said, "They know Eureka Springs is the only city in Arkansas that can do this and, certainly, the one city that should."  Without discussion and with one council member voting "present," a four-member majority approved the measure.
Eureka Springs (pop. 2300), a thriving tourist town listed on the National Register of Historic Places is often cited by travel publications as "the San Francisco of Arkansas," as much for the high-visibility rainbow flags adorning downtown storefronts and its disproportionately large gay and lesbian population as for its steep and narrow streets, reproduction trolleys and turn-of-the-century Victorian homes.  Long a destination for gay and lesbian vacationers, the town has three "Diversity Weekends" each year and more than 50 gay-owned businesses.  HRC’s cross-country bus tour stopped in Eureka Springs in 2011 to support the important advances activists in this unique Arkansas town have produced which offer hope and benefits to its LGBT residents.
The city's now-official endorsement follows by less than six weeks the same action in Austin, TX.  HRC supported both efforts to pass resolutions in these Southern States.

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