Commentary from Northwest Arkansas
Tuesday, March 10, 2009 - 10:37:17
Representative Brian King: Follow me, boys! The Dark Ages are calling us!
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” July 4, 1776
This week Arkansas Representative Brian King introduced a bill, HB 2176, which proposes further increasing the state’s control over a city’s authority by prohibiting any city or county from offering Domestic Partnerships.
To date, Eureka Springs is the only city in Arkansas to offer such Domestic Partnership Registries. There are many who had hoped that Fayetteville would follow suit, but we’re not quite as brave as Eureka in that regard.
In 2004, the state of Arkansas - in a statewide ballot initiative - passed the Defense of Marriage Amendment, which states, “Marriage consists only of the union of one man and one woman.” This amendment was supported by over 75 percent of the voters that year.
In 2007, the Eureka Springs City Council passed a measure (three times) which created the Domestic Partnership Registry. True, while the DPR doesn’t actually confer legal rights upon any couples who choose to take advantage of it, it was a nice symbolic move. That’s how progress is made sometimes, with small symbolic moves.
And it was also good for tourism, in a town which thrives on it. But for all the reaction it inspired, one would have thought that the city council had voted to close down the local Creation Science Museum, and sell the “dinosaurs” on eBay.
The American Family Association produced a vile propaganda film, They’re Coming to Your Town, which pretty much depicted Eureka as a town taken over by the forces of Godlessness, and warned that other cities in Northwest Arkansas were in similar danger. Yeah, right.
And according to Michael Walsh, who wrote an excellent piece on the subject (http://www.geekfest.com/showthread.php?t=256405&page=8):
When "They're Coming to Your Town" came out, city officials had almost nothing to say. When the Jericho Rider's Motorcycle Ministry from Missouri brought in bible thugs from as far away as Ohio for Diversity Weekend and harassed tourists (gay and straight alike) in Basin Park, the silence was deafening.
Walsh, in case anyone is unaware, was one of the guiding lights behind the DPR in Eureka Springs.
What King proposes is the worst sort of bigotry. Not only meaningless, since it attacks a basically feel-good measure, but in 2009, it seeks to further ostracize members of our own society.
It is the sort of legislation that panders to the very worst that is in each of us, the fear and loathing of that which we do not understand, and lack the courage to open our hearts and minds to.
But we live in a culture in which many wear their bigotry on their sleeves, as if it were a badge of honor, instead of shoving it back down into the dark, dank recesses of their souls, where it might whither and finally die.
Bryan King will no doubt be hailed as a hero to to these folk - the adamant, the angry, and the eternally bitter in an ever-changing world.
Quote of the Day
The mediocre man, in his distrust of all that is great, maintains that he values good sense before everything. But he has not the remotest idea what good sense is. He merely understands by that expression the negation of all that is lofty. - Ernest Hello, "Life, Science and Art"
Response from Eureka Springs Mayor Dani Joy
What follows is the response given last night by Eureka Springs mayor Dani Joy. I know that if it is quoted at all in the newspapers it will be edited, so here it is in its entirely.
Today in Little Rock our State Representative, Brian King filed a bill, House Bill 2176, for consideration that will increase the State’s authority over municipal affairs by prohibiting any city or county in Ark. from adopting anything like our Domestic Partnership Registry.
Representative King and I have worked together over the years to better the district as well as Eureka Springs and we agree on many issues. I appreciate most of the efforts that he has made on our behalf.
This issue however is one that we do not agree on.
When I brought the DPR to the council in 2007 I believed that we had the chance to help supply individuals and families that had been previously uninsured an avenue to get to medical care and it not cost them their entire income. With a federal government that had a previous track record of ignoring the medical needs of the middle class families that were making too much money to get Medicaid and not enough to pay for insurance, I believed that we had found a way to help them out. Over 254 fortune 500 companies at the time offered access to their medical insurance and benefits to employee’s families that could produce a DPR document. 13 states and more than 188 counties and cities offer their public employees domestic partnership protection. Even our capital, Washington D.C. has a domestic partnership policy.
We’ve seen many couples. Straight, gay, young, old. All were excited about the opportunity of simply saying I love you and getting a document that isn’t worth anything more than the paper it’s printed on. It doesn’t give them any legal rights. It doesn’t break any laws. And it states this specifically in our ordinance.
I am troubled by Mr. King’s actions and question how much authority the state is attempting to have over municipal government when there have been no laws broken and the city wishes to allow its citizens an avenue to simply make a public statement of commitment. Our actions as a city were nothing more than the authority of a proclamation.
With the creation of the DPR much talk and ridicule arose and turned this into a gay/lesbian issue. What started out as a simple gesture by the city quickly became a human rights issue.
As the mayor of this city I stand beside each and every one of our constituents no matter who they are. I will not stand silent any longer and allow a demographic of our citizens be humiliated and degraded. I lived thru the racial wars of the 60’s. I’ve seen the prejudice that my first husband endured being Jewish and having his mother come out of concentration camps, and I’ve even seen the condemnation in people’s eyes when they look upon my son who has a disability.
Prejudice or bigotry have no place in our city. The gay and lesbian community are our friends, neighbors and family.
Under the Declaration of Independence it states:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” July 4, 1776.
In this city, we are all equal.
I strongly request that the state remembers what our forefathers said and not overstep their jurisdiction into the area of municipal government.
I stand by the actions of the city council and its adoption of Ordinance 2052 on May 14, 2007.
City of Eureka Springs