Michael Walsh, who produces the Out in Eureka Springs website to encourage tourism in the city, tells me of a big party the website is sponsoring.
It’s called Married to Equality. As Walsh says, it’s a “big, fat gay no-cover-charge public wedding reception.” It will be from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Aug. 2, a highlight of the city’s Summer Diversity Weekend.
It’s a public rebuke to those in Carroll County who wanted to shut down issuance of marriage licenses in Eureka in the immediate aftermath of Circuit Judge Chris Piazza’s marriage equality ruling. Guests of honor include Jennifer Rambo and Kristen Seaton, the couple first to be married in Arkansas. They’ll get free lodging and meals and other perks the celebratory weekend Aug. 1-3.
Also to be honored is Deputy County Clerk Jane Osborn, who stepped in to issue licenses when resistance arose that momentous Saturday morning. Cheryl Maples, the attorney who filed the state lawsuit against the same-sex marriage ban, also will be a guest of honor. According to the release:
… the reception will be hosted by one of the resort town’s newest restaurants, Farm to Table Fresh. “Eureka Springs has long been known as the ‘Wedding Capitol of the South’,” restaurateur Ken Ketelsen said. “This will be a special event for the celebration of marriage and a time to congratulate all couples who of have embarked on that journey together.”
Artists, shops, galleries and individuals are donating gifts, flowers, decorations and more. Other restaurants will provide appetizers for the reception and multiple bakers will provide wedding cakes.
Many of us here feel as if Eureka’s reputation as a progressive, inclusive and LGBT-friendly community was tarnished by the behavior of county officials in May. In part, the reception is intended to send them a message: We’re proud of our in- and out-of-town gay newlyweds and they deserve better than they got from you.
Eureka Springs has long been known for its welcome to LGBT people. It has a domestic partnership registry, which carries only symbolic value. But many couples have visited the city to sign up. Then, May 10, it became the site of the first legal same-sex marriage in Arkansas. Piazza’s ruling has been stayed by the Arkansas Supreme Court, but not before nearly 500 couples were married mostly in Pulaski, Carroll and Washington counties.