Nine slender statues stand beneath a window to the Arkansas governor’s office – bronzed, life-sized images of the black children who integrated Little Rock Central High School on Sept. 25, 1957 and helped ignite the Civil Rights era. “They defied prejudice,” says Gregory Donaldson, an African-American Baptist minister from St. Louis visiting the display with his wife Nanette. “They defied bigotry.”
A few blocks away, at the very same moment, Samantha Head marries her partner of seven years, Samantha Kertz. Their simple ceremony is one of dozens of gay weddings conducted at the Pulaski County Court House since Saturday, when a county judge ruled the state’s gay marriage ban in violation of the U.S. Constitution. The decision thrust Arkansas into a familiar spot: Squarely in the middle of a civil rights fight.
In 1957, the battles lines were hardened but the outcome was certain: Eventually, the nation’s schools and other institutions would desegregate. And so it is now, when a gray, rain-spitting workday in Little Rock illustrates how far the gay rights movement has come – and how far it will go.