The Arkansas Stonewall Democratic Caucus is proud that a brave legislator, Representative Greg Leding, has responded to ours and the community's call to present HB 1950 to amend the Arkansas Civil Rights Act to add five simple words: sexual orientation and gender identity.
After the introduction of SB 202 which passed and HB 1228, the Stonewall Democratic Caucus rallied to host a town meeting made up of a panel of legislators to discuss and educate the public on the two discriminatory bills. Two hundred people showed up on a Sunday afternoon in extremely rainy and cold weather to participate in the discussion. We also launched our new logo with the 5 simple words on it to achieve added awareness.
Arkansas is experiencing a time where the LGBT community continues to face discriminatory bills being introduced and passed. A time where only one city in Arkansas has a non- discrimination ordinance which will be moot after Act 137 goes into effect. Basically a time where LGBT Arkansans feel not only disenfranchised and unequal but also targeted by legislation that ensures no legal recourse when discriminated against. In the rest of the country, thirty seven states have legalized gay marriage, over 300 Republican leaders have endorsed gay marriage, and polls continue to show that a majority of Americans believe that gay marriage should be legal. Many successful cities such as Orlando, Shreveport, Starkville, Atlanta and Dallas have passed non-discrimination ordinances that have helped their city's businesses grow and be successful. The vast majority of Fortune 500 companies have also joined the fight for equality by adopting LGBT non-discrimination policies including Apple and Walmart who have also spoken out against discriminatory bills such as SB 202. Poll after poll shows America's support of not just gay marriage but of gay rights, yet in Arkansas the LGBT community is under attack.
The South must not go through another time of discrimination. We were soberly reminded Saturday of another struggle as many walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama to commemorate the "Bloody Sunday" march of 1965. It is our hope that Arkansas continues to progress into a state that is welcoming and accepting of all people regardless of "race, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or the presence of any sensory, mental, or physical disability......."
Thank you, Representative Greg Leding for bravely stepping forward and giving us the hope of a better day where not only will all Arkansans be viewed as equal but will also be treated equally in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.