Eureka Springs, a popular gay tourist destination and the only city in Arkansas with a domestic-partnership registry, announced this week that it would also become the first to provide health care coverage for the domestic partners of city workers.
According to a news release from Michael Walsh, who helped lead the effort in the northwest Arkansas town, "The city's insurance provider, the Arkansas Municipal League, notified the city on Monday that beginning January 1, 2011 both same- and opposite-sex partners of city workers will have the same access to health insurance as legal spouses."
The announcement capped a yearlong campaign to win the benefits by expanding the definition of "family dependent," a move supported by Mayor Dani Joy, who in August wrote the Municipal League weeks before the city council passed a resolution in support.
"I am aware as well as you that some will construe this as a 'gay issue,'" said Joy. "But the reality is that there are many heterosexual couples who chose to live together in a committed relationship -- as a family -- without entering into the civil contract of marriage. These folks face the same 'family' challenges every day, not the least of which is providing health care for themselves and for those who are dependent on them. ... The definition of family is at the center of our concerns."