The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s leading lobby for equal rights for LGBT people, is targeting three Southern states, including Arkansas, in an effort to bring equality to the South. HRC head Chad Griffin is from Arkansas, so that probably helps explain the focus here. Plus need, as evidenced by the Arkansas legislature.
The Campaign is committed to a multi-year effort — costing $8.5 million and involving 20 staff members — to improve the lot of LGBT people in Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas.
The three states are targeted for an absence of protection of gay people from employment discrimination, housing discrimination and other civil rights protection. The states also prohibit marriage equality. And studies show discrimination is worse here.
· 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.
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. 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.
So much for the “live and let live” tolerance that Jerry Cox professes to be present in Arkansas in an interview with the Democrat-Gazette. Cox heads the leading advocate of discrimination against gays in Arkansas, the Family Council. Their thinking is that their religious liberty is infringed if they unable to discriminate against gay people, even including bullying in some cases.
Here’s an Arkansas-specific link to get on the text list and keep up with events. These include a community reception May 5 t the Arkansas Arts Center at which Griffin will appear. I attended one of these last year and was heartened by the crowd and their commitment, evidenced then and now by initiatives for marriage equality.