With the news that Houston voters rejected a gay rights ordinance yesterday, “Peace in the Valley,” a documentary short available on YouTube (watch it here) about Eureka Springs, Arkansas’ efforts to pass a similar civil rights ordinance, is timelier than ever.
The 15-minute film, co-directed by queer couple Michael Palmieri and Donal Mosher (“October Country,” “Off Label”), has citizens of the small town—home to the largest statue of Jesus Christ in the United States—express their opinions about gay rights.
One young protester wonders why a man would want to use a woman’s bathroom, in response to the ordinance that would protect LGBT citizens against discrimination in housing, employment, and public bathrooms. An older man feels the town is becoming “too permissive.”
These views are contrasted with those of Jayme Brandt, the owner of “Twice Born,” a shop that sells T-shirts with messages from God on them. Self-described as a “straight Christian for gay rights,” he supports the ordinance showing the non-judgmental attitudes in Eureka Springs.
“Peace in the Valley” also features scenes from “The Great Passion Play,” an outdoor drama of Jesus’ life. Ken Butler, who plays Jesus in the show, is seen presenting the stage blood, whips, and giant cross that are used in the performance. The CEO of the Great Passion Play, Randall Christy, explains that he wants to ordinance to fail because church groups who attend his drama are the “backbone of tourism” in the town.
As this poetic and powerful short shows the outcome of the vote and its aftermath, what transpires illustrates the up-and-down battles of LGBT rights in America, and why, despite marriage equality, the fight for equal rights is far from over.