By Kat Robinson
Folks in Eureka Springs know how to throw a party, and all they needed was a reason to celebrate. Recognizing the nearly 500 same-sex couples that tied the knot during the brief period in May where such unions were allowed in the state of Arkansas certainly fit the bill.
The event at Farm to Table Fresh Restaurant on Main Street was a relaxed soiree where longtime Eureka Springs natives and LGBT friendly folks mingled with many of the lucky couples who had their partnerships made legal back in May. The guests of honor: Jennifer Rambo and Kristen Seaton, the Fort Smith ladies who drove to Eureka Springs overnight to be first in line on May 10 when the doors to the Carroll County courthouse opened.
Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza, at 5:00 p.m. the day before, declared that the 1997 statutory ban (Act 144) and the 2004 constitutional ban (Amendment 3) on same-sex marriage in Arkansas, violate the Federal constitution. The ruling came in Wright v. Arkansas, a lawsuit filed in state court brought by private attorney, Cheryl Maples on behalf of more than 20 same-sex couples. The end-of-day Friday ruling meant no action could take place across most of the state…but in Carroll County, a wedding and honeymoon destination, the courthouse opens on Saturdays for marriage licenses.
The “Married to Equality” event (locally dubbed the Big Gay Wedding Reception) also honored former Carroll County Deputy County Clerk Jane Osborn, who came in to work that day to ensure licenses were issued after another deputy county clerk refused to grant any licenses that day (the county clerk was out of town on leave). Osborn, who has since left the office, received many hugs of gratitude throughout the affair Saturday night. She told The Seattle Lesbian she hasn’t decided what her next career move would be. “I think my dream job might be working as a dishwasher in a restaurant, as long as I could do it here in Eureka Springs. This is a very loving community,” she said.
Zeek Taylor and Dick Titus, the second couple and the first male same-sex couple, had been together 42 years before being able to get hitched May 10.
“When the news got out, there were people who contacted me who told me they never knew I was gay,” Titus laughed. “I’m 65 years old now. What does it matter?”
An estimated 300 people attended the party, billed as the first mass gay wedding reception in the south. The event was open to the public, and residents of the northwest Arkansas town happily mingled with the celebrants. More than 40 different area restaurants donated the food and beverages for the evening’s festivities.