Sunday, May 11, 2014

Equality, Y'All: Marriage Equality Arrives in Arkansas — A Report from on the Ground

Meanwhile, back home in Arkansas (though we're still in Richmond, and will return to Little Rock later today, God willing): here's what's happening:

Here's a beautiful photo essay offered by Arkansas Times of what marriage equality in Arkansas looked like yesterday, on the very first day it arrived in our state. The photo at the top of the posting, which shows Marie Howard and Trella Laughlin waiting in line in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, to be married yesterday, is from this article and is by Kat Wilson.*

And here's a first-hand account from right on the ground by my friend Steve Thomas, from his Facebook page, which he has kindly allowed me to share:

We awoke early and drove four hours to Eureka Springs, Ar. The first legal marriage licenses would be issued at 9 am. Allan Cox and I wanted not only to get married, we wanted to be a part of this historic day in Arkansas. 
The line had already formed as we took our place. We were told 45 min's later to vacate the building or we would be arrested. Confused and disappointed we walked down to the Mud Street Cafe for breakfast. Before we could order, I received a call saying, "Come back, the line is forming and they will issue licenses."
We quickly returned and took our place in line. (I would venture to say at least 80-100 couples.) Soon we heard cheers and clapping as the first license was issued. We started believing, this was actually happening in Arkansas.  
We met so many wonderful couples. And with each new license issued the crowd grew more excited. One couple we met were in their 70's. They had been together for 50 years. They began telling us stories of the hardships they had endured over the years. Allan and I were thrilled for them. (They were behind us in line and did not receive a license.) 
After standing in line for three plus hours, we were informed by a city policeman that the issuance of the licenses would stop at 1 pm. We were four couples away when they shut the door on us. And we were told to vacate the building.  
We witnessed tears of love, happiness and disappointment. We were happy for those that received their marriage licenses. Sad and disappointed for not only us, but also for the 60 or so couples behind us in line. You can see the disappointment in our faces in the Channel 7 picture.  
To all those that made this moment possible, Thank You.  
Allan and I will be at the Pulaski County courthouse Monday morning to try once again. We realize we have a very short window of opportunity before the state halts the issuing of licenses. Just perhaps it will happen for us and many other couples. 
It was a long ride home. We discussed the highs and lows of the day. It was indeed a historic day for our state. Perhaps soon this will become a non-issue and we will all become equal citizens with equal rights. Equality Y'all.

People who have long been excluded from the full range of human rights, rights that others take for granted as their birthright, hunger and thirst for rights. They hunger and thirst to be treated as human beings, in a way that I think is sometimes difficult for those who have taken their rights (including the right to humane treatment) for granted.

Open a door even an inch to us as we seek our rights and affirmation of our humanity, and we'll flock to that door and try to push it wider. This is a human reaction. 

And, as with the Civil Rights struggles of the 1960s, where the national media played a critical role,  it is game-changing when people see photos of real human beings with lives other human beings can imagine as human being treated as less human than other human beings. It is game-changing when we can see people we recognize as human just like ourselves herded into lines to beg for rights others enjoy, told peremptorily that they'll be arrested if they don't disperse, and then told that, unfortunately, the window of opportunity for them to claim their rights has just slammed shut again.

There is no turning back, when people see the humanity of everyone who is gay on full display in a video clip in which a man sheds tears as his loved one sobs with joy at news he has just received, tenderly caresses the arm of the beloved, and then kisses him — something human beings do at moments of intense joy and sorrow. There is no turning back for bigots now, no matter how loudly they scream, Bible!, and Natural Law!, and Religious Freedom! and Civil Discourse!

Thank God. And as my friend Steve says, Equality y'all.

* I do hope I'm not violating Kat Wilson's rights by using this photo without having secured direct permission from her. That's certainly not my intent.

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