Despite the efforts of anti-LGBT activists in Arkansas, equality continues to prevail in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Residents voted (579-231) to uphold a comprehensive, city-wide non-discrimination ordinance that was originally passed by the Eureka Springs city council in February. The new legislation will ban discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations against people based on their race, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, socioeconomic background, and a number of other important categories. While other ordinances that have recently passed in Arkansas cities like Little Rock and Hot Springs only protect city employees and city contractors, the ordinance in Eureka Springs applies to all citizens. Following tonight’s result, HRC Arkansas State Director Kendra R. Johnson released the following statement:
"Arkansas cities are leading the way and we hope that Governor Asa Hutchinson is taking notice. Where leadership has failed Arkansans on the state level, local municipalities like Eureka Springs have taken the initiative to ensure that all their residents are rightfully protected from all forms of discrimination. Welcoming all people in our communities makes the Natural State stronger and we praise the local activists who worked tirelessly to make this victory possible. Right now, keeping up the momentum in other cities is imperative, so that every Arkansans can feel safe in their community.”
Lamont Richie, author of the ordinance and chair of the Keep Eureka Fair steering committee added, "As a small group of committed citizens of Eureka Springs, we are very happy that we have received such good advice, counsel and support from so many organizations and people including the Human Rights Campaign Arkansas. While 2223 was a totally local ordinance, created by local community members, having the advice and support of so many has been instrumental."
Earlier this year, the Eureka Springs city council passed this ordinance for its residents, but in order to avoid a contentious battle with opponents of equality, the elected officials placed the issue on the ballot. It was revealed last month that one of the spokespeople for the anti-LGBT ballot initiative, Acra Lee Turner, is a convicted serial rapist who has admitted to sexually assaulting multiple women. With the prominent feature of Turner in a video calling for residents to vote to repeal the ordinance, it is more clear than ever that the anti-equality movement is desperate for any shred of support, as they fight a losing battle. Despite opponents' hate-filled campaign, with tonight's vote Arkansans showed an unwavering commitment to the ideals of inclusion and acceptance.
HRC Arkansas is working to advance equality for LGBT Arkansans who have no statewide protections in housing, workplace, or public accommodations; and legal state recognition for their relationships and families. Through HRC Arkansas, we are working toward a future of fairness every day - changing hearts, minds and laws toward achieving full equality.