Today HRC unveiled, in an exclusive story with The Associated Press, Project One America, a comprehensive campaign to dramatically expand LGBT equality in the South through permanent campaigns in Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas. This substantial and lasting initiative—with a three-year budget of $8.5 million and a dedicated staff of 20—is the largest coordinated campaign for LGBT equality in the history of the South.
"Right now, this country is deeply divided into two Americas—one where LGBT equality is nearly a reality and the other where LGBT people lack the most fundamental measures of equal citizenship. Project One America is an unparalleled effort to close that gap, and it opens up a bold, new chapter in the LGBT civil rights movement of this generation. In this grand struggle for equality, we can’t write off anyone, anywhere," said HRC President and Arkansas native Chad Griffin.
Project One America is the very first campaign of its kind to work exclusively on LGBT equality in Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas—where there are no non-discrimination protections for LGBT people at the state or local level in employment, housing or public accommodations, and where each state’s constitution expressly prohibits marriage equality.
"Despite the legal landscape, it’s long past time that the country stopped treating the South like the ‘finish line’ for equality. HRC has more than 57,000 members and supporters in these states, and there are millions more fair-mined people ready to stand on the right side of history," Griffin said.
Griffin will be visiting Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas on May 5th-7th as part of a three-state tour of press and public events to kick off Project One America.
Project One America will focus on making progress on three fronts—changing hearts and minds, advancing enduring legal protections, and building more inclusive institutions for LGBT people from the church pew to the workplace.
"You overcome all of the objections by having conversations and getting to know your neighbors," Griffin said in an interview with The Associated Press.
HRC Mississippi, HRC Alabama and HRC Arkansas will be anchored by full-time local staff and dedicated in-state office space to guarantee a round-the-clock effort.
The effort will be led nationally by Brad Clark, a long-time LGBT advocate with a consistent record of success at statewide LGBT equality organizations in Iowa and Colorado. Its deputy director will be Karin Quimby, a veteran of HRC’s Field work in the South.
“HRC has been the largest national LGBT organizer in the South for decades, but LGBT people in these three states have told us in deeply personal terms that they want us to do more in their front yard,” Clark said. “The opportunities for progress couldn’t be clearer, and the need couldn’t be greater. Mississippi has the single highest percentage of gay and lesbian couples raising children of any state in the country, for instance, but these parents are making do without essential legal protections or inclusion in their community.”
In addition to the record levels of LGBT parenting (which are drawn from a 2010 Census analysis by the Williams Institute), HRC found both real need and profound opportunity for progress in a recently-completed survey conducted for HRC by Anzalone Liszt Grove—the largest survey of its kind on the needs, experiences and priorities of LGBT people in the South.
- In each of these three states, nearly 65 percent of LGBT people report suffering verbal abuse.
- Nearly one in five report experiencing physical violence because of their identity.
- A quarter report experiencing discrimination in employment or public accommodation.
- And one in four LGBT parents raising children in these states are total legal strangers to the children they raise.
HRC Mississippi, HRC Alabama and HRC Arkansas’ nine launch goals are:
- Empower LGBT people (and straight allies) to come out.
- Raise the visibility of LGBT people and issues with the general public.
- Create safer environments for LGBT young people.
- Build partnerships with faith communities, communities of color, business communities, and conservatives.
- Create a more inclusive workplace for LGBT people
- Build support for enduring legal protections that ensure LGBT equality.
- Expand participation in HRC’s Municipal Equality Index in these three states.
- Create a more inclusive healthcare environment for LGBT people
- Equip LGBT people and non-traditional allies as spokespeople.
A complete resource on Project One America’s vision and motivating research is available here.
HRC will continue being the single largest national LGBT organizer in the South, with a decades-long track record of political and field campaigns and grassroots education efforts. One-third (500,000) of our 1.5 million members and supporters call the South their home and HRC is present at more than 50 LGBT pride events across the South each year.
HRC’s field team is working across the South supporting legislative and electoral initiatives with direct grants to local and state groups and campaigns, funding for research and lobbying, as well as staff resources – including three full time employees dedicated to the South, and five other full time employees that spend a large portion of their time working in the region. Furthermore, the HRC Foundation’s public education and outreach programs – including nationally recognized benchmark ratings like the Corporate Equality Index, Healthcare Equality Index and Municipal Equality Index – are present across the South helping to transform the institutions that affect the daily lives of LGBT people.
“Project One America is the perfect complement to HRC’s existing political and field campaigns and grassroots education efforts—as well as our decades-old volunteer communities across the South,” said Griffin. “That said, we’re not undertaking this work because it will lead to quick, easy or sweeping victories. We’re doing it because it is difficult. Folks in these three states shouldn’t have to wait a single day longer for one, fully equal, America.”
Stay up-to-date about HRC’s Project One America at www.projectoneamerica.org, follow the hashtag #ProjectOneAmerica on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, or text 'oneamerica' to 30644.
Read The Associated Press story in its entirety here.