Sexual Orientation

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Entry Category: Sexual Orientation

Burks, Ruth Coker

Ruth Burks is an Arkansas woman who, in the midst of the 1980s AIDS epidemic, provided support for dozens of men who were dying of AIDS—men who were often abandoned by their families, with even some health professionals being reluctant to treat them. Burks treated the men with dignity and compassion that eased the pain, physical and emotional, that marked their final days. She also ensured that they would have a proper final resting place, providing for the burial of dozens of men in Files Cemetery. Frances Ruth Coker was born in Hot Springs (Garland County) on March 19, 1959, to James Isham Coker and Aline Lawlor Coker. Her father, who was almost twenty years older than her mother, served …

Gay and Lesbian Movement

aka: LGBT Movement
The gay and lesbian movement in Arkansas has historically been represented by such legal organizations as Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), Lambda Legal, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which have worked to secure the rights of gay and lesbian people in the state. However, recent years have seen an increasing organization of gay and lesbian people in Arkansas, primarily in the emergence of student groups at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) and other institutions of higher education. Legal Issues and Context The first reference to homosexuality in the bound index to the now-defunct Arkansas Gazette is from October 1973, four years after the Stonewall Riots (the first “shot” fired in the Gay …

Harris, E. Lynn

aka: Everette Lynn Harris
Everette Lynn Harris was a bestselling author of novels about African-American men in gay and bisexual relationships. In his nine novels, which have sold more than three million copies, the gay characters are “on the down low,” or have not publicized their sexuality. Harris, a black man, endured years of abuse at the hands of his stepfather and for years denied his own homosexuality. E. Lynn Harris was born on June 20, 1955, in Flint, Michigan, to Etta Mae Williams and James Jeter, who were unmarried. When Harris was three, he moved with his mother to Little Rock (Pulaski County), where she worked as a housekeeper. She soon married Ben Odis Harris, who helped raise Harris until he was thirteen, …

Loyd, Robert

Robert Loyd—along with his husband, John Schenck—was an activist for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights in Arkansas, especially same-sex marriage. He was also a business owner and a veteran of the Vietnam War. Loyd and Schenck co-founded Conway’s Pride Parade and were plaintiffs in Wright v. Arkansas, a challenge to the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. Ralph Robert Loyd, called Robert or Bobby, was born in Nuremberg, Germany, on September 24, 1949, to Inge and Troy Loyd. His mother had served in Germany’s regular army, and his father was an American soldier. Loyd’s father brought his wife and son to America when Loyd was three. They lived in Damascus (Van Buren and Faulkner counties). In 1968, at his …

Lucie’s Place

Lucie’s Place of Little Rock (Pulaski County) is a nonprofit organization providing support for LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) young adults experiencing homelessness in central Arkansas. Lucie’s Place aims to provide housing, resources, case management, and job skills training. Lucie’s Place is the only organization in Arkansas working to support young LGBT people experiencing homelessness. Lucie’s Place was founded by Penelope Poppers. After the death of her friend Lucie Marie Hamilton in 2009, Poppers wanted to start an organization to serve the LGBTQ community in honor of Hamilton, who was a mentor and advocate to many. In 2011, Poppers—along with Diedra Levi, Mike Lauro, and Karen Thompson (Hamilton’s mother)—planned community meetings, mostly at Boulevard Bread Company on South …

Marisa N. Pavan, et al. v. Nathaniel Smith

aka: Pavan v. Smith
Pavan v. Smith (2017) was a U.S. Supreme Court decision that clarified the legal parenting rights for the non-biological partner in a same-sex marriage. Rather than hearing oral arguments on the matter, the Court summarily rejected the decision of the Arkansas State Supreme Court denying a wife of a mother the opportunity to be listed as a parent on the couple’s child’s birth certificate, a privilege that was presumptively granted to husbands under Arkansas law. In 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that state laws that barred same-sex marriage violated the Due Process and Equal Protections Clauses of the U.S. Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment. Following that victory for marriage equality advocates, the Arkansas State Supreme Court acted …

McGehee, Peter Gregory

Gay Arkansas-born novelist Peter Gregory McGehee was praised by reviewers for his outrageous comedies of Southern manners, in particular the sly humor with which he explores what he saw as a hypocritical society that easily rationalizes its own moral lapses even as it enforces a narrow, judgmental morality upon others. Peter McGehee was born in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) on October 6, 1955, to Frank T. and Julia Ann May McGehee. The middle of three children, he was six years old when the family moved to Little Rock (Pulaski County), where he attended Forest Park Elementary School and, in 1973, graduated from Parkview High School. Shortly before he would have completed a BFA degree at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, …

Moroles, Maria Christina DeColores

Maria Christina DeColores Moroles (also known by the ceremonial names Sun Hawk and Aguila) is best known for founding and maintaining Santuario Arco Iris, an intentional land community in Ponca (Newton County) designed specifically as a “sacred land space” for women and children, especially marginalized women and children of color. Moroles, a so-called two-spirit woman of Mexican and Indigenous American descent, began living on the 500-acre wilderness preserve in 1976. (Moroles prefers the pan-Indian term “two spirit” to the term “lesbian” to describe a third or non-binary gender identification and sexual orientation that derives from Native American ceremonial roles and culture.) Maria Christina DeColores Moroles was born on October 17, 1953, in Corpus Christi, Texas, to Jose Elizondo Moroles of …

Ozark Land Holding Association

Founded in 1981, the Ozark Land Holding Association (OLHA) is an intentional community—a communal living arrangement based on shared land and common interests—located in Madison County about twenty miles outside of Fayetteville (Washington County). OLHA, which is a community of lesbians, chose the somewhat vague label “intentional community” in an effort to avoid problems with the rest of the broader community. OLHA was one of several women’s land communities created in northwestern Arkansas in the 1970s and 1980s, including Yellowhammer, Sassafras, Whippoorwillow, Arco Iris, and Spinsterhaven. The community was founded by author Diana Rivers and nineteen other women based upon their efforts on the belief that a community based in land specifically set aside for women offered an opportunity for …

Pharr, Suzanne

Suzanne Pharr is a longtime activist for social justice. As an author, organizer, and strategist, she has led numerous campaigns aimed at ensuring equality and opportunity for often-marginalized people. Pharr founded the feminist, anti-racist organization the Women’s Project in the 1980s, which worked with women in small towns throughout Arkansas. Suzanne Pharr was born in 1939 in Hog Mountain, Georgia, to Cecil Pharr and Willie Mae “Peggy” Moore Pharr. Her father was a farmer, and Pharr, the youngest of eight children, grew up on a farm in Hog Mountain, Georgia, about six miles outside of Lawrenceville. After attending the local schools and earning a reputation as an outstanding high school basketball player, Pharr attended Women’s College of Georgia in Milledgeville, …