As Eureka Springs nears a vote on its one-of-a-kind-in-Arkansas gay rights ordinance on May 12, the national press is taking notice. Here’s an article today in the New York Times. I heard over the weekend that the Washington Post has been on the ground, too. For that matter, we’ll be taking a long look at the battle through the eyes of David Koon before the election.
The Times notes Eureka is gay-friendly. Indeed. But it gives the lead of the story to the Passion Play and its claim to be the foundation of tourism in the quaint Ozarks village, in the words of an Oklahoma preacher. Time was, that claim was true. But the Passion Play had to be rescued from financial ruin and isn’t the power it once was. It and many of its like-minded supporters also don’t live in the city limits of Eureka, where some 1,400 voters are getting intensive canvassing from supporters of the ordinance ensuring non-discrimination against gay people in the city.
Talk about bad for the diversity weekend and other cash-rich Eureka tourism should its voters reject years of effort and say, no, we really think gay people should be second-class citizens. Writes the Times:
Opponents of the ordinance are optimistic, noting that voters rejected similar measures in nearby Fayetteville, Ark., and Springfield, Mo. But the Eureka Springs campaign has been tailored to local concerns, focusing on tourism. It is the city’s only substantial industry since the 19th century, when Americans flocked here in the belief that the water held special healing properties.
“If you think tourists are going to be excited about even the possibility that their wives, daughters and girlfriends will be sharing a bathroom with a guy who decides he’s ‘transgender’ just to have a little fun (or worse) at the ladies’ expense, you don’t know tourists and you don’t know sex offenders,” one newspaper ad read.
At the same time, a website promoting gay tourism, Out in Eureka, has already begun incorporating the Council’s passage of the ordinance into its argument that the city is “the antithesis of the redneck stereotype” and a “microcosm of San Francisco.” Gay travelers, it says, can feel at home along with “all manner of colorful characters, misfits, eccentrics and rugged individualists.”
The bathrooms. Always the bathrooms. Never mind that anybody can walk into a bathroom now. Never mind that equating gender or sexual orientation with sex offenses is, to put it kindly, a non-sequitur. They’ve apparently hit TV with the bathroom message, too.
I think the voters of Eureka won’t buy the word of an Oklahoma fundamentalist and will choose instead to side with their friends, neighbors and customers. But I thought Fayetteville voters would resist scare tactics, too.
The article ends on a note of typical “Christian” hypocrisy. Randall Christy, the Oklahoma preacher who’s running the Passion Play says he only wants unity in Eureka not divisiveness (meaning, in other words, defeat of equal rights protection for LGBTQ people that he opposes). He says he loves everyone. Presumably including all those queer sexual predators.