Eureka Springs, Ark., a city located up in the northwest corner of the state re-affirmed it’s commitment to marriage equality by City Council resolution in a 5-1 vote July 2014. This was the second time that the city had endorsed marriage equality. The first coming at the end of 2012.
“RESOLUTION NO. ____
A RESOLUTION IN COMMEMORATION AND CELEBRATION OF MARRIAGE EQUALITY
WHEREAS, the City Council of the City of Eureka Springs, Arkansas was the first and only City Council in Arkansas:
— To officially endorse universal civil marriage for all otherwise qualified adult Arkansans and all Americans by adopting Resolution No. 608 (2012); and
— To enact the state’s first and only Domestic Partnership Ordinance, No. 2052 (2007); and
— To provide access to health insurance for the Domestic Partners of City Workers (2011); and
— To amend its equal employment opportunity policy prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation via Ordinance No. 2062 (2006); and
WHEREAS, on May 10, 2014 Eureka Springs became the first city in Carroll County, in all of Arkansas and in the entire Southern half of the United States in which same-sex couples were granted marriage licenses by the office of the County Clerk of Carroll County; and
WHEREAS, commemorating that historic occasion with a public celebration is right and fitting for a city that places a premium on equality and recognizes “marriage is a powerful and important affirmation of love and commitment and a source of social support and recognition.”
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF EUREKA SPRINGS ARKANSAS, THAT:
We congratulate all same-sex newlyweds licensed to marry and/or married in Eureka Springs and elsewhere throughout Arkansas on and after May 10, 2014 and welcome them, their friends and families to celebrate at the “Married To Equality” reception in Eureka Springs on August 2, 2014.”
Though the resolution does not carry any weight of law behind it, it’s important because of the message it sends; as noted by Michael Walsh webmaster of the website outineureka.com and Lamont Richie-Roberson, current county quorum court judge and former city transit director said during their statements to the city council:
“My name is Michael Walsh and I live in the ‘Wedding Capitol of the South.’ And, with any luck, there will be a lot more weddings here next year.
One good reason for voting for this resolution is that there are no good reasons to vote against it.
It’s a feel-good resolution. But that’s not all it is.
It’s the kind of statement that should have been issued in May when county officials gave the town a black eye by evicting people from the corridor one flight up and then slammed the courthouse doors in their faces.
People who had driven thru the night, slept in their cars, lined up at daybreak, closed their shops and waited in line for five hours—most of whom were eventually disappointed. Our own citizens had to rush to Fayetteville to get what they were denied in their own hometown.
It was not our finest hour. The news stories that went viral were not datelined Carroll County or Berryville, they were datelined “Eureka Springs.” We didn’t create that mess, but we suffered the fall-out.
This resolution is a way of making up for that—in a positive way. It’s a re-statement of where we stand as a community—a community that values equality and hospitality for all. A city whose door is always open.
You don’t know this, but Lamont Richie wrote a similar resolution weeks ago. And I regret not backing him up at the time. He is now a married man with a hyphenated last name. But he too had to leave the place he calls home in order to make that happen. I know he was very hurt by that and a lot of us hurt right along with him.
We can’t erase those headlines or the hurt. But with this resolution we can resolve to do better. Be better.
As for the Married To Equality reception on August 2, it has already gotten good media attention in the five surrounding states where our tourists come from. A half dozen restaurants, dozens of businesses and a small army of volunteers are creating another first for the town, the state and South—the first-ever open-to-the-public reception for gay newlyweds, their friends and their straight families who love them.
The first two women married—to each other—in Eureka Springs will be there. So will the two attorneys who won the lawsuit that made that possible and, last but not least, Jane Osborn who made history herself on May 10.
In effect, you’re the ones in charge of sending out the invitations to the party. And I hope you’ll do that tonight.”
Statement from Lamont Richie-Roberson to Eureka Springs City Council 7/14/14:
“You have before you a resolution…another installment if you will…of a long line of acts performed by this city to acknowledge and to respect those people whose sexual orientation has been the basis for years of derision, discrimination and disentitlement. Neither understanding nor approving of homosexuality is necessary to take this next step in doing what’s right. Regardless of one’s personal feelings, two people of the same sex entering into marriage will have no effect on anyone unless others choose to be bothered by it.
On May 9th, a brief window of opportunity opened for two such people and for more than a thousand others when a Pulaski County Circuit Judge ruled that the State’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. The next day, two women from Ft. Smith came to Eureka to apply for a license and to be married. They represented the first same-sex couple to be married in the State of Arkansas, ever…and it happened here…in Eureka Springs …on a sunny Saturday that…except for the humiliating obstacle course they had to negotiate…was an absolutely fabulous day for them.
During that week, who did what, when or how…county, city or state…in the public’s eye little else mattered other than it happened in Eureka Springs. And fair or not, the reality is that those in public service are held to a standard that is somewhat higher than other professions. So the actions and words…or the lack thereof…of public officials were and continue to be closely scrutinized.
That time is part of history now.
It cannot be changed but the consequences of it are still up for grabs. This is where the City Council comes into play. A celebration is planned for the first weekend in August – a time to rejoice the positive side of what did happen here on May 10th. This resolution is simple…it’s an acknowledgement by the City that Arkansas history was made in Eureka Springs on May 10th, 2014. It’s a further acknowledgement that this celebration continues the tradition in Eureka Springs that all people are to be treated equitably regardless of race, religion, national origin, sex, handicap or veteran status or sexual orientation.
It is my hope that this Resolution receives a unanimous approval tonight if for no other reason than now is the time just to do the right thing. Thank you.”
The celebration that Lamont Richie-Robertson refers to will be Eureka’s Married To Equality celebration. The general public is invited to attend.