The Human Rights Campaign’s annual State Equality Index continues to rank Arkansas in the bottom tier of states in affording equal treatment to people based on sexual orientation and gender.
This ranking seems likely to only get worse in the coming legislative session, with the still-more-conservative legislature gearing up to defeat hate crimes legislation and otherwise build protection for those who want to discriminate on these grounds.
Arkansas has plenty of bad company: 25 states are ranked as the highest priority for achieving basic equality:
Alabama; Alaska; Arizona; Arkansas; Florida; Georgia; Idaho; Indiana; Kentucky; Louisiana; Michigan; Mississippi; Missouri; Montana; Nebraska; North Carolina; North Dakota; Ohio; Oklahoma; South Carolina; South Dakota; Tennessee; Texas; West Virginia; and Wyoming.
The best states, working toward achieving “innovative equality”:
California; Colorado; Connecticut; Delaware; District of Columbia; Hawaii; Illinois; Maine; Maryland; Massachusetts; Minnesota; Nevada; New Hampshire; New Jersey; New Mexico; New York; Oregon; Rhode Island; Vermont; and Washington.
A single Southern state, Virginia, has passed non-discrimination legislation. Federal law provides some protection, but states are resistant.
Despite the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision Bostock v. Clayton County, which prohibits discrimination against LGBTQ people, explicit and comprehensive civil rights protections still do not exist at for LGBTQ people at the federal level. As a result, the rights of millions of LGBTQ people and their families vary depending on which state they live in. In 27 states, LGBTQ people remain at risk of being fired, evicted or denied services because of who they are. There are 18 states and Washington, D.C., that have robust LGBTQ non-discrimination laws covering employment, housing and public accommodations.