NW Arkansas

By James Rector, HRC Consultant

On Saturday June 14, 2014, the day finally arrived for organizers who had been preparing for months for an amazing celebration in downtown Fayetteville, Arkansas. This event was charged with energy from Judge Piazza’s momentous ruling in May that struck down the ban on same sex marriage. Despite the stay that was issued, hundreds gathered to celebrate the couples that were legally married in the Natural State.

The Walmart Pride associate resource group was honored as grand marshals for this year’s parade presented by Northwest Arkansas (NWA) Pride. Over the past year they have made several advancements in company policies including domestic partner benefits and transgender protections. Cheryl Maples, the attorney for the same -sex marriage lawsuit in Arkansas, participated in the parade along with Candy Clark who is running for State Representative for District 84. Many local churches, LGBT organizations from across the state, city aldermen and businesses from Fayetteville’s Block Street Business Association marched in the parade as well

After an amazing promenade down Dickson Street, the event was followed up by a picnic and festival in Wilson Park presented by the Northwest Arkansas Center for Equality.  The event included live music, free food provided by Backyard Burger, Free HIV testing from the Center’s NWA HOPE program and information vendors from across the state including, Planned Parenthood, the Arkansas Transgender Equality Coalition, the NWA Rape Crisis Center, Little Rock Pride and many others.

HRC was present during the picnic to sign up new members and supporters and answer questions about the newly launched Project One America. Though the “Love Conquers Hate” t-shirts and “Totes Gay” bags were popular, many attendees who stopped by the booth were more interested in speaking about the Buyers Guide and the Corporate and Municipal Equality Index.

The highlight of the event was a very supportive proclamation by Fayetteville’s Mayor Lioneld Jordan:

WHEREAS: Pride Week is important for its contribution to reducing barriers, misunderstandings, discrimination, and isolation faced by individuals in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, and it is important for us to celebrate equality and reflect on its importance to us individually and as a nation, and

WHEREAS: today we celebrate equality as a city that respects and works to uphold that important value, we stand together to break down the stone walls of discrimination, and we seek to wield love stronger than hate and hope more powerful than insult or injury, and

WHEREAS: from generation to generation, ordinary Americans have led marches toward freedom, fairness, and full equality under the law - not just for some, but for all, and we celebrate the successes. Our nation has worked to build for ourselves and our families a nation where no one is a second-class citizen, no one is denied basic rights, where all of us are free to live and love as we see fit, and where we can all celebrate equality and live our lives unashamed and unbattered, and

WHEREAS: the City of Fayetteville celebrates equality and supports efforts to ensure that everyone has the right to live in conditions of dignity, respect, and peace” and we recommit ourselves to the standard that community success thrives in an environment of inclusion and

WHEREAS: we as a nation have long praised the American value of equality, and with that affirmation, we should assure that we act upon our stated commitment and do not act or desire to limit the equality of some, because where unequal treatment exists, equality does not exist,

NOW THEREFORE, I, Lioneld Jordan, Mayor of the City of Fayetteville, Arkansas do hereby proclaim the week of June 8 through 14, 2014 as “PRIDE WEEK”

The week wrapped up with the annual White Party similar to the global phenomenon that first began in 1985 to raise funds for HIV/AIDS research. Contributions from the party help support the NWA Center for Equality and its NWA HOPE program, an HIV outreach and prevention education service, which conducts free, confidential HIV testing.

There are a few remaining events to celebrate Pride in Northwest Arkansas throughout the end of the month including Summer of Conversation house parties. To find out more information on how you can get involved in hosting one of these conversations visit http://www.hrc.org/resources/entry/project-one-america-summer-of-conversations

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