‘Public Display of Affection’ open to everyone at Diversity Weekend in Eureka Springs

‘Public Display of Affection’ open to everyone at Diversity Weekend in Eureka Springs

Eureka Springs artist Zeek Taylor and his partner, Dick Titus, had been together 42 years in May of 2014 when a ruling by a judge in Little Rock “declared that same-sex couples had the legal right to wed,” Taylor remembers. “With that ruling, we were finally allowed to get married. That was one long engagement!”

Because they were the first male couple to be married not just in Arkansas but in the South, Taylor and Titus became “one of the faces of gay marriage in the South.”

“We were swamped with requests for interviews from TV stations and newspapers including the New York Times and the Washington Post,” Taylor remembers. “A reporter from Tokyo, who worked for the largest wire service in Asia, came to our house to interview us and take our picture. The story of our wedding appeared on the front page of a Tokyo newspaper. We were interviewed two times on the Huffington Post live show, and one of the shows included an appearance with actor John Lithgow.

“I wouldn’t change a thing about my wedding day,” he adds. “It was a roller coaster ride of a day when we took a stand for equality. It was one of the happiest days of our lives. We made history.”

Or, as Titus — who tries his best to stay out of the spotlight — put it then: “If folks don’t know that I’m gay now, they never will.”

During this fall’s Diversity Weekend Nov. 3-5 in Eureka Springs, Taylor will speak at an event in Basin Spring Park called “Public Display of Affection.” He’ll talk about “Eureka Springs and its importance of being at the forefront of successfully advancing rights for all its citizens including gay, lesbian, and trans people.” He’ll tell everyone in Basin Spring Park, whatever their orientation, that “they are welcomed and respected here, and are free to be who they are while visiting Eureka Springs.” And there will be a photo opp “of same-sex couples who will gather and kiss.”

“Of course, straight couples are welcome to join in,” Taylor adds. “When we talk about equality in Eureka Springs, we mean it. No one is excluded. The PDA will be a public display of love.”

Of course, Taylor has lived most of his life experiencing the fear and sometimes actual danger of engaging in PDA with his partner.

“For most of my adult life, I would not have dared to show affection to my partner while in public,” he admits. “Gay folks have been killed for doing that. I was envious of straight couples who could walk down the street arm in arm or holding hands, and occasionally give each other a love peck on the lips.”

Taylor says “one of the biggest misconceptions” about gay couples “is that our relationship is different.”

“Truth be known, we are just like any other old married folks,” he says, laughing. “We watch television, we shop for groceries, clean house, and all the other things most married folks do.

“[But] just like married hetero couples, we now have important legal protections that once did set us apart. Those protections include property rights, tax advantages, the right to visit each other as ‘family,’ if in the hospital, and more. I can’t begin to express how important it is to us to have those legal protections. It’s a huge relief.”

Taylor and Titus met in Memphis, Tenn., where Taylor was studying art. To friends, he sometimes tells the story of a little bar called the Psych-Out where, after regular business hours, gay men gathered to hang out and dance.

“It was socially acceptable in the ’70s for two women to dance together,” Taylor remembers. “They danced together in nightclubs, at street fairs, and even on telecasts of the popular ‘American Bandstand’ show. The same was not true for two men. It was so taboo that when I lived in Memphis in the ’70s, it was actually illegal for two men to dance together.”

Taylor and Titus liked to dance, and on Saturday nights, they’d be at the Psych-Out to do just that, often to the Don McLean song “American Pie.” If the lookout saw police coming, “everyone would quit dancing. By the time the cops were let in, we were all seated. After the cops left, everyone once again danced.

“We danced all night long,” he reminisces. “At dawn we left the bar, and several of us would go to the Ohman Inn, a diner on Union Avenue, where we ate breakfast and made plans to do it all again the following weekend.”

Moving to Eureka Springs in 1987 made all the difference, Taylor says.

“From day one, we saw same-sex couples unabashedly showing affection in public. We felt free to do the same. We were accepted by the community not as ‘one of those gay couples,’ but just as a couple like everyone else in town,” he says with amazement. “It was liberating to no longer be afraid, to experience expressing oneself affectionately in public, and to be accepted — not just tolerated, but accepted — as members of the community.”

Taylor hopes whatever he says at the PDA event will help those who aren’t gay to “understand some of the struggles we have endured in the LGBTQ+ community, and see the progress we have made in securing our rights.”

“I want them to know that we are in no way threatening, and we are worthy of equality and acceptance,” he says. “I want them to know that we are more alike than different.”



Diversity Weekend:

Public Display of Affection

WHEN — Noon Nov. 4

WHERE — Basin Spring Park in Eureka Springs

COST — Free

INFO — facebook.com/outineurekasprings/



Diversity Weekend


Official Meet & Greet — 5 p.m. Nov. 3, Brews

Karaoke & Comedy — 7 p.m. Nov. 3, Brews

‘Dr. Shred’ Performance — 10 a.m. Nov. 4, Basin Spring Park

Public Display of Affection — Noon Nov. 4, Basin Spring Park

D.J. Girlfriend — 12:30 p.m. Nov. 4, Basin Spring Park

Vendors — All day Nov. 4, Basin Spring Park

Drag Queen Bingo — 5:30 p.m. Nov. 4, Brews


Listen Here!

Listen to Zeek Taylor and Jay Wilks from Out In Eureka on last week’s Know the News podcast at nwaonline.com/1027knowthenews/

Categories: In The News