Weeks before it landed itself on the map as being the first town in Arkansas to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, Eureka Springs was profiled in the Advocate.com as being the “gayest small town in America you’ve never heard of.”
…Eureka Springs, Ark., a town of 2,000 in the heart of Baptist country. It’s rumored to be one-third LGBT. It’s an hour drive east from the cul-de-sacs and McMansions of Bentonville, Wal-Mart’s corporate headquarters, into a more ominous landscape. Dotting the roadside are a lot of houses with tumbled-off porches and caved-in roofs. The yards of tidier homes along this stretch are brimming with ghostly armies of lawn statues for sale, resembling Disney’s rendition of Qin’s tomb.
Eureka doesn’t have a gay bar. When Lee and his partner, Walter, bought Eureka Live two and a half years ago, some newcomers in town hoped that would change.
“You wouldn’t be able to support a gay bar in Eureka,” Lee says. He’s a hefty, thoughtful man, and he points a forefinger sporting a massive silver dragon’s-head ring at me. “I think when you call yourself a certain bar — whether it’s gay, straight, topless, whatever — you’re stereotyping yourself and you’re not allowed to see the big picture.”
It’s also very un-Eureka to segregate — someone’s going to feel left out. In 2008, when the deeply red, one-horse town of Silverton, Ore., elected the nation’s first openly transgender mayor, one could practically hear Fred Phelps and the ACLU gasping simultaneously in surprise. But that election wouldn’t have shocked anyone in Eureka, where they know how non-partisan and personal small-town politics can be.