Eureka Springs' Vote Opens Fight Over Law Cast As Anti-Gay

May 13, 2015

Same-sex couples lined up on May 10, 2014 in Eureka Springs to get marriage licenses.
Credit Jacqueline Froelich / KUAF

A northwest Arkansas town's vote to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity could pave the way for a legal fight over a new state law that's criticized as anti-gay. 

Eureka Springs voters overwhelmingly voted Tuesday to uphold the anti-discrimination ordinance, the most direct challenge to a state law aimed at preventing local protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Supporters said the results reinforced the image of the town as an inclusive community. Eureka Springs is known both for its 66-foot-tall Jesus statue and as a gay-friendly tourist destination.

The city council approved the ordinance in February. It's a direct response to Arkansas lawmakers prohibiting cities and counties from barring discrimination on a basis not contained in state law. That measure takes effect in late July.

Officials in Little Rock and Hot Springs have approved more scaled-back anti-discrimination ordinances that only apply to the cities and their vendors.