Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2015-05-20
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

Sponsor

  WINDY CITY TIMES

Southern city pushes ahead on LGBT front
by Ross Forman, Windy City Times
2012-12-26

facebook twitter pin it del.icio.us stumble upon digg google +1 reddit email


Retired journalist Michael Walsh is working to re-write gay life in Eureka Springs, Ark.

Walsh, 63, who lived in the Chicago area 1981-2006 and was an editor at the Sun-Times, is now retired in Arkansas. He authored the city's precedent-setting domestic partner registry in 2007, the first and only in the state.

In November, Walsh was one of two who persuaded the local city council to adopt a resolution supporting marriage equality. Eureka Springs became the first city in the state to officially endorse the idea after a vote of the city council.

"Eureka is an island of progressivism in a sea of red-state conservatism," Walsh said. "The town has a couple of unofficial mottos: 'Where the misfits fit' and 'The world's largest outdoor asylum.'

"In September I read that Austin became the first city in Texas to officially endorse same-sex marriage and thought to myself, 'Eureka Springs is the Arkansas equivalent of Austin, so we should do that, too."

He recruited his friend Lamont Ritchie, who is gay and a county commissioner, to write the resolution, and they then lined up two members of the city council as co-sponsors.

"In the weeks leading up to the Nov. 12 vote, a few of my friends and I collected more than 700 signatures from supporters," Walsh said. "I gave the list to the city council on the night that Lamont and I spoke in favor of the resolution to make it clear to them that public support for marriage equality was incredibly strong, even here in the Deep South.

"Surprisingly, no one spoke against it. There wasn't even any discussion at the council table. The vote was called and the result was five 'ayes' and one 'present.'"

Walsh said the resolution is "a vitally important and historic first step."

The resolution "means that this state has one progressive, enlightened, fair-minded municipal government that believes in inclusion, not exclusion, and that recognizes and respects the notion of the separation of church and state," Walsh said. "It also adds to the momentum of the marriage equality movement nationwide and alerts national LGBT organizations not to overlook the work that gay and lesbian people are doing in the South and throughout small-town America. Although it doesn't get much attention, serious LGBT civil rights work is being done in fly-over country."

Walsh is truly proud of his efforts.

"As a writer with thousands of bylines in hundreds of newspapers and magazines behind me, I've come to realize that my words can be persuasive. They can open minds and change attitudes, round up allies and influence votes. At 63, and for no pay, I'm doing the most satisfying work of my life," he said.

Walsh was the editor of the Sun-Times' Sunday Home section 1981-1984, then a nationally syndicated columnist for Universal Press Syndicate and a contributing editor to such publications as Metropolitan Home, Better Homes & Gardens and House & Garden. He retired in 2008.

"Soon after I moved to Eureka Springs, I made friends with another gay man and two lesbians," Walsh said. "On New Year's Eve 2006, we were at a bar celebrating and the subject of domestic partnerships came up. After a brief discussion, we tabled the topic until the next day when we met again in a living room, each of us armed with our laptops. Within a few hours, we decided to propose a Domestic Partnership Registry to the city council. I took on the task of writing an ordinance that would make it law."

In February 2007, they presented the ordinance to city council, with data, research and endorsements.

"In Arkansas, it was groundbreaking," Walsh said. "The backlash was tremendous. Fundamentalist preachers railed against us and even the American Family Association got involved, threatening to boycott the town and claiming faith-based tourists would never set foot in a resort city that had been 'taken over by homosexuals.' I was shocked at the vitriol and bigotry."

But Walsh and the three others, backed by public support from residents who knew them primarily as friends, neighbors and customers, refused to back down.

The city council passed the domestic partnership registry unanimously—and to date, more than 600 same-sex couples from more than 55 communities in Arkansas, as well as 15 other states, have come to Eureka Springs to get a Domestic Partnership certificate.

"It has generated thousands of dollars in revenue for the city and contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to the local economy," Walsh said.

"By itself, [the domestic partnership registry] doesn't convey any legal rights. Under our one-man/one-woman state constitutional amendment, it couldn't. But it has been honored by employers, health insurance companies, car rental agencies, airlines and health clubs with 'family plan' memberships. More importantly, it has had deep personal meaning for couples in committed relationships because it offers official government validation and recognition of those relationships.

"The lesson in a little town with no official LGBT organization, no gay business guild, is that if you want something done, you just do it. And then work like hell to drum up public support. The other lesson was that you don't actually have to be a long-term gay activist to become one."

And in 2011, Walsh also worked to gain access to health insurance for the domestic partners of city workers.

"In a few years, no one will remember my name and I'm just fine with that," Walsh said. "The important thing is that local and state history will regard what Eureka Springs has been able to do in the realm of LGBT equality and social justice as the starting points."

What's next?

"I'd really like to work on developing an LGBT organization in Eureka Springs so that the gay community could empower itself and speak with an 'official' voice," Walsh said. "We have the population and the economic power. What we don't have is the leadership. I'm not it. I don't do committees or meetings. My best place is at the keyboard, not the podium. More LGBT folks are moving here every month. Sooner or later, I'll identify the one who has the organizational and leadership skills I lack."


facebook twitter pin it del.icio.us stumble upon digg google +1 reddit email




Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Clinton responds to Chicago couple 2015-05-24
Amendment to hate crimes law clears General Assembly 2015-05-24
Ireland votes yes to marriage equaliy 2015-05-23
Study: Reactions of heterosexual siblings to same-sex marriage advances 2015-05-22
Missouri HIV case gets national attention 2015-05-20
Hinshaw & Culbertson hosts marriage debrief event 2015-05-19
Conversion therapy ban passes House 2015-05-19
Missing Chicago trans woman located 2015-05-17
Laramie OKs ordinance 17 years after Shepard's death 2015-05-16
Griner, Johnson suspended by WNBA after DV incident 2015-05-15
Black gay man found guilty by Missouri jury of "recklessly infecting" 2015-05-15
Gay engineer involved in Amtrak crash 2015-05-14
State-Sponsored Homophobia Report: criminalizing countries decrease 2015-05-13
Relationships & the Law Today: Possible Supreme Court marriage outcomes 2015-05-13
ASK LAMBDA LEGAL Stop prison rape 2015-05-13
VIEWS Getting married 2015-05-13
World: Gay premier in PEI; Australian lawmakers; hookup apps, STIs 2015-05-12
National roundup: Cleveland's pro-gay move; Hawaii's pro-trans law; trans teen's suicide 2015-05-12
MCC founding pastor presides at blessing of aame-gender couples in Cuba 2015-05-12
Griner, Johnson tie the knot 2015-05-10
Film about 1970s gay marriage screens May 16 with discussion 2015-05-06
Local attorney Bashor new Nat'l LGBT Bar Association boardmember 2015-05-06
HBHC, ALCC and LAF open joint clinic 2015-05-06
ALCC reveals new name 2015-05-06
World: Nepal outreach; U2 and Russia ban; Ecuadorean civil unions 2015-05-05
National: GOP lawmaker outed; Clay Aiken; Leelah Alcorn 2015-05-05
Gay Qantas CEO talks marriage, diversity 2015-05-05
Supreme Court deliberations continue in private 2015-05-04
Life of slain Pakistan activist celebrated in Chicago 2015-05-01
Book details Iowa's marriage path prior to Supreme Court arguments 2015-04-29
Groups respond to Baltimore and Freddie Gray 2015-04-29
The Bloodhound Law 2015-04-29
Marriage-equality vigil in Crystal Lake 2015-04-29
Kirk takes part in rally outside Supreme Court hearing 2015-04-29
Marriage supporters gather in Chicago after Supreme Court hearings 2015-04-29
Celebrations: Mansfield-Weinstein married April 10 2015-04-29
Marriage equality: The timeline 2015-04-29
Financial pros discuss same-sex marriage 2015-04-28
MOMBIAN Parents moving marriage forward 2015-04-28
Supreme Court hears marriage arguments; the wait begins 2015-04-28
 



Copyright © 2015 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 

 

 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS

Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor


 



Sponsor

About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage



About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group produces Windy City Queercast, & publishes Windy City Times,
The Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community,
Nightspots, Out! Resource Guide, and Identity.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.