Scroll To Top

Arkansas's 'Gay Capital' Holds On to Antidiscrimination Law

Arkansas's 'Gay Capital' Holds On to Antidiscrimination Law


Voters in Eureka Springs affirmed an LGBT-inclusive civil rights ordinance, even though a new state law will make it unenforceable.

Residents of Eureka Springs, Ark., Tuesday voted overwhelmingly to retain the town's LGBT rights ordinance, even though a state law will render it unenforceable.

In the small tourist town, known as the "gay capital of the Ozarks," the vote count was 579 for keeping the ordinance, 231 against, reports the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. The result was markedly different from that in another Arkansas town, Fayetteville, where voters last year repealed an LGBT-inclusive civil rights law, and in Springfield in neighboring Missouri, which saw a voter repeal of such a law in April.

"What is really special about tonight is that we are all legal," Lamont Richie, a justice of the peace who authored the ordinance, told a celebrating crowd last night, according to the Democrat-Gazette. "We are the only community in Arkansas that legitimizes a broad range of people."

The Eureka Springs City Council adopted the ordinance in February, shortly before the state legislature passed a bill barring any municipality from enacting or enforcing a civil rights law that is broader than state law -- which does not cover sexual orientation or gender identity. The state measure will go into effect July 20.

"Ours will become basically ineffective at that point," Mayor Robert "Butch" Berry told the Democrat-Gazette. But he promised that Eureka Springs would participate in a court challenge to the state statute.

Local conservative Christians had denounced the ordinance, and the City Council agreed to put it to a popular vote. The council wrote the ballot question itself so as to be able to control the wording.

Now that voters have upheld the ordinance, some right-wing Christians are still angry, claiming opponents of the law were discouraged from voting. One of the most outspoken is Randall Christy, who runs The Great Passion Play, a reenactment of Jesus Christ's last days staged in the summer at an amphitheater near Eureka Springs.

"I don't think people understand the kind of people we're dealing with in Eureka Springs," Christy told the Democrat-Gazette. "There is an infill of very vile, radical, vicious people in this town. They have gone around intimidating people to the point that they were afraid to get out of their homes today. ... The Bible-believing Christians did not have the guts to get out and vote."

Advocate Magazine - KehlaniAdvocate Channel Promotion

From our Sponsors

Most Popular

Be sure to follow Advocate on your favorite social platforms!


Want more news, top stories, and videos? Check out the all NEW Advocate Channel!
Your 24/7 streaming source for equality news and lifestyle trends.
Click this link right now:

Latest Stories