The existing patchwork of legal protections for LGBT people in the United States leaves millions subject to uncertainty and potential discrimination. That’s why the Human Rights Campaign is working with lawmakers and advocates to pass the Equality Act in Congress, as well as strong non-discrimination protections at the state and local levels.
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In an unprecedented effort to bring equality to Arkansas, HRC launched Project One America, a comprehensive campaign to dramatically expand LGBT equality in the South through permanent campaigns in Alabama, Mississippi and Arkansas. Project One America is the first of its kind campaign to work exclusively in Arkansas. While there are no non-discrimination protections for LGBT people at the state or local level in employment, housing or public accommodations in Mississippi and Alabama, there are currently six municipalities in Arkansas that have passed limited measures to protect LGBT residents.
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On April 2, 2015, the Arkansas legislature passed and Governor Asa Hutchinson signed legislation that improves the disastrous H.B. 1228 but falls short of providing needed non-discrimination protections to all Arkansans. Though an improvement, the legislation can still be used as a weapon to discriminate against LGBT people, people of color, minority faiths, women and other Arkansans at risk. The earlier legislation, H.B. 1228, is still on Governor Hutchinson’s desk, and HRC calls on the Arkansas House to recall that hateful bill immediately. HRC also calls on Governor Hutchinson to make good on his suggestion and issue an executive order protecting state employees from discrimination.
The Governor’s bill comes as civil rights leaders, organizations and corporations have spoken out against the bill, including Apple and its CEO Tim Cook; Acxiom, one of Arkansas largest employers; Arkansas-based Wal-Mart; Yelp; PayPal; the Arkansas Municipal League and the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce.
In 2014, HRC undertook the largest survey of its kind to date on the needs, experiences, and priorities of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Arkansas.
The results show that LGBT Arkansans are just like their friends and family members—living, working, volunteering, and going to church within their communities. However, LGBT people also face daunting amounts of harassment and discrimination and enjoy no legal protections at either the local or state level.