With the fate of anti-business, anti-equality H.B. 1228 hanging in the balance, HRC is putting the spotlight on how anti-LGBT forces in the Arkansas legislature have deeply damaged the state's economic climate and business reputation with support for anti-LGBT legislation this year.
At a time when Governor Asa Hutchinson is pushing to draw more high-tech jobs and firms to the state, Arkansas' embrace of discriminatory legislation could have a profoundly destructive effect. HRC calls on the Arkansas state senate not to pass this bill, and if it should, on Governor Hutchinson to veto it.
At a press conference in Little Rock today, HRC President and Arkansas native Chad Griffin announced that the organization will run a full-page ad in the San Jose Mercury News, the largest paper in Silicon Valley and the high tech industry’s paper of record, spotlighting legislation in Arkansas targeting LGBT people and religious minorities passed this session. The ad will run Sunday, noting if Governor Hutchinson allows the bill to become law, he will be ignoring the opposition of Arkansas employers like Apple, Wal-Mart and other companies who opposed the legislation. A digital version of the ad will also begin running today on various tech websites and will soon start running on the digital properties of the Wall Street Journal.
In addition, Griffin delivered a formal invitation to Governor Hutchinson to travel with him to New York City next Tuesday to attend a gathering of more than 250 C-suite executives of Fortune 500 companies and other major businesses—corporations whose investment potential collectively totals in the hundreds of billions of dollars. Each of these companies has scored a 100 percent on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index (CEI)—demonstrating their core commitment to treating LGBT employees fairly and equally under the law.
"Many of these companies have spoken out publicly in opposition to legislation like H.B. 1228," Griffin noted in the invitation. "Many of them create the high-tech jobs you argue Arkansas hopes to attract every day. I suspect many of these firms will have questions for you—especially as it relates to H.B. 1228, as well as another piece of anti-LGBT legislation, S.B. 202, which you allowed to become law."
Earlier this week, the Arkansas Senate Judiciary Committee voted to advance H.B. 1228—which would empower individuals to pick and choose which laws they want to follow and allow an individual to sue government actors, including teachers, firefighters and police officers, if that individual believes their religious rights were being violated by a government action. The committee’s vote reversed an earlier measure rejecting the bill last month—and comes despite public opposition to the bill by the Arkansas Municipal League, and countless fair-minded Arkansans opposed because of its likelihood of harming Arkansas’ LGBT community, religious minorities, and the business climate in the 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; and legal state recognition for their relationships and families. Through HRC Arkansas, we are working toward a future of fairness every day—changing hearts, minds and laws toward achieving full equality.
Chad Griffin, President of Human Rights Campaign (HRC) speaking at a press conference on Thursday, March 26, 2015 in the Rotunda of the Capitol of the State of Arkansas in Little Rock, AR. Photo (c) AP Images/ HRC
Matthew Bell, Chef/Owner of South on Main Restaurant in Little Rock, AR, speaks at the Human Rights Campaign press conference on Thursday, March 26, 2015- Photo (c) AP Images/ HRC
Reverend Maxine Allen, United Methodist minister, speaks at Human Rights Campaign press conference. Photo (c) AP Images/ HRC
Anne Haley, private citizen and graduate student, speaking at a press conference of the Human Rights Campaign. Photo (c) AP Images/ HRC
Chad Griffin, President of Human Rights Campaign, photographed Thursday, March 26, 2015 at the State Capitol of Arkansas in Little Rock, AR, presenting a letter inviting Governor Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas to a meeting of technology executives. Photo (c) AP Images/ HRC