Governor Hutchinson: Now is the Time to Issue Executive Order to Protect LGBT State Employees

by HRC Staff

LITTLE ROCK— Today, HRC Arkansas reacted to Governor Asa Hutchinson’s assertion that there is no “urgent need” to sign an executive order protecting LGBT state workers, and urged him to take immediate action to ensure all employees are treated equally under the law.

According to the Associated Press, "Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson says he doesn't see an urgent need for an executive order extending anti-discrimination workplace protections to gay and lesbian state employees after lawmakers approved a reworked religious objections bill." It went on to report that "Hutchinson told reporters Thursday he had considered such an order as an alternative in case lawmakers didn't agree to his request to revise [H.B. 1228]."

These statements come despite his earlier public assurances that he was considering an executive order to protect state workers from discrimination.  In a press conference last week, Hutchinson said “Another option that we are looking at is to utilize an executive order, which interestingly has not been utilized from my research, from the executive branch in state government, in terms of protecting against discrimination in the workplace for state government. ” He went on to add, “We are looking at an executive order to aid in that communication and to make it clear that Arkansas wants to be a place of tolerance.  We want to be a place that has the right balance between religious protections and religious freedom and non-discrimination.”

 In response to today's comments from Governor Hutchinson, HRC Arkansas State Director Kendra R. Johnson released the following statement:

 “Governor Hutchinson's own words last week show that he understands the huge positive benefits of issuing an executive order protecting LGBT state employees from discrimination. Now is the time to take action,” said Johnson. “If the Governor truly wants to send a message that the H.B. 1228 debacle is behind him--and that Arkansas wants to attract the jobs of tomorrow--issuing this simple executive order would be an essential first step toward that goal."

 Johnson noted that more than 100 leading executives and CEOs of American technology companies have issued a joint statement calling on statewide elected officials across the country to guarantee LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination protections. The companies have committed to taking the absence of these protections into account when considering future investments.

 "Governor Hutchinson could begin that progress with the stroke of a pen," Johnson said. 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.



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