Post submitted by Hubert Tate, former HRC Press Secretary, Project One America
Today, HRC Arkansas implored Governor Asa Hutchinson to veto SB202 while strongly encouraging the state senate to defeat HB1228. Both bills threaten Arkansas’ future as a welcoming state for all people. Today is the last day that Governor Hutchinson can veto SB 202; he has said that he will allow it to go into law without his signature. Should it become law, SB202 would prohibit municipalities from enacting nondiscrimination ordinances that protect LGBT people. HB1228 could allow any person to undermine state laws by citing their personal religious belief as an excuse to discriminate against others.
“The governor can and should veto a bill that would harm LGBT Arkansans and strip control from local governments. SB202 is bad legislation,” said HRC Arkansas State Director Kendra Johnson. “SB202 undermines local governments from doing what is best for their respective towns.”
HRC Arkansas has been advocating against SB202 since the day it was introduced. Recognizing that the bill is motivated by anti-LGBT animus, and would have the effect of preventing non-discrimination protections from being passed on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, HRC Arkansas quickly activated a plan to fight the bill:
· Engaged HRC’s members and supporters in Arkansas to take action. HRC Arkansas sent an email to members and supporters, which encouraged them to contact their legislators and demand state leaders vote “no” on SB202. Killing the bill allows cities the opportunity to offer critical protections to LGBT people and would also leave local control in local hands.
· Educated the Municipal League, State Chamber of Commerce and Mayors. HRC Arkansas proactively participated in dialogue with key stakeholders. In order for Arkansas to spur economic growth, the state must have inclusive living environments for all people. SB202 destroys the ability for municipalities to create safe and fair climates for LGBT people to live, work and raise their families.
· Arranged for LGBT advocates to speak against bill. HRC Arkansas lined up legislators to publicly voice their opposition to the legislation in committees, and on the House and Senate floors. These fair-minded advocates noted the critical importance of moving Arkansas forward, and not to the back of the pack.
· Increased visibility of bill’s harmful properties in local media. HRC Arkansas is vocal and visible within the Arkansas media landscape on how the legislation will negatively affect hardworking LGBT Arkansans who simply want to make a living without fear of discrimination.
· Held face-to-face conversations with lawmakers. HRC Arkansas continues to engage Arkansas legislators on the importance of creating safer, more inclusive spaces for LGBT people in the Natural State. HRC is aggressively educating, arming and empowering the state’s leaders with information to support the need for LGBT protections in public accommodations, the workplace, and housing.
“HB1228 is equally disturbing and allows any person to claim religious belief as their grounds for discriminatory acts,” said Johnson. “Simply put, state senators should erase it from the legislative agenda. We will aggressively fight the measure because it prevents equality for all people in the Natural State.”
HRC Arkansas is working to advance equality for LGBT Arkansans who have no state or municipal level protections in housing, workplace, or public accommodations; legal state recognition for their relationships and families; and state protections from hate crimes. Through HRC Arkansas, we are working toward a future of fairness every day—changing hearts, minds and laws toward achieving full equality.