[Ed. Note — Last year, Q-Notes Special Assignments Writer and Production Director Lainey Millen embarked on a journey to the “gay mecca” of Arkansas, Eureka Springs. Her reports a year ago were an engaging and insightful look into the progressive steps made toward LGBT equality in a small, rural town in a state bordering the South and Mid-West. Now a year later, Millen gives us a peek into what has happened since her trip.]
Arkansas Rep. Bryan King (R-Boone, Carroll) lost his battle on March 27 in attacking this Mid-South mecca for the LGBT community with regard to a same-sex domestic partnership registry (DPR). Rep. King introduced H.B. 2176 in the Arkansas House of Representatives on March 9 that would have stripped the town of its DPR system.
However, on April 1, King reintroduced the bill saying that at the time the vote was taken, a quorum was not present. Legislators left the committee meeting to be at the 10 a.m. House session.
Since then, the bill was slated to be heard in the Local Affairs Committee on April 3. Further updates indicate that King failed to attend the meeting. On April 4 King withdrew the bill. It was recommended for study in the interim by the committee. It still stands to be seen if the bill will reappear in the future.
Michael Walsh, the person responsible for drafting the domestic partnership proposal that was made law in June 2007, said, “This was a huge victory for the DPR, still the only one in Arkansas. It was also a huge slap in the face to the American Family Association and the Family Association of Arkansas — both backed King in his attempt to ban DPRs statewide. It all happened over the course of about three weeks.”
“This time, also, we had State Rep. Kathy Webb (D-Pulaski) on our side, the only out lesbian in the state legislature. Also Arkansas Speaker of the House Robbie Wills (D-46) and House Majority Leader Steve Harrelson (D-1), not to mention Mayor Dani Joy and the City Council,” he added.
Joy stated that she believed in home rule for municipalities across the state. She did not want the situation to set a dangerous precedent.
Since its inception, it has had approximately 285 unmarried couples from 55 state communities and about 14 other states participate in the DPR. It remained intact for the Spring Diversity Weekend held in early April.
According to The Carroll County News, it said that it showed little regard for the tourism industry by revisiting this divisive issue.
According to city records, the DPR has generated almost $10,000 for the city in less than two years. Registration costs $35 per couple.
Walsh puts the figure at closer to $250,000 to $500,000 when DPR-related expenditures on hotels, motels, B&Bs, restaurants, bars, caterers, ministers, florists, gift shops, photographers and spending by friends and families are included.