Today, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) civil rights organization, blasted the Arkansas House of Representatives for advancing H.B. 1986, an anti-transgender bill, to the Senate. The bill clearly intends to discriminate against transgender Arkansans by making it criminal for a transgender person to access a sex-segregated space consistent with their gender identity.
The measure would make it a crime for transgender Arkansans to use the facilities that correspond to their gender identity, and would open them up to further discrimination and ostracization. It would impose a criminal record on a transgender person who discreetly avails themselves of a locker room or similar facility that is consistent with their gender identity – even if they haven’t done anything wrong.
“Simply put, H.B. 1986 targets transgender Arkansans, just because of who they are. HRC Arkansas opposes any bill that singles out LGBTQ Arkansans for discrimination, and, laudably, Gov. Asa Hutchinson also opposes unnecessary anti-transgender legislation,” said Kendra R. Johnson, HRC Arkansas state director. “Millions of Americans live in cities and states with affirmative non-discrimination protections that ensure transgender people are able to access places of public accommodation — including theaters, grocery stores, coffee shops and gas stations — and those protections date back decades in many places. Arkansas should learn from the mistake North Carolina made with its disastrous HB2 law, and reject this discriminatory measure.”
H.B. 1986 is one of several egregious anti-LGBTQ bills introduced in Arkansas this legislative session. By making it illegal for transgender people to access restroom or locker facilities consistent with their identity, it opens them up to increased discrimination and harassment — as well as criminal consequences – as they simply go about their everyday lives. It also exposes Arkansas to tremendous risk of the kind of financial, legal, and political blowback that has beset North Carolina since the passage of HB2.
In 2014, HRC launched Project One America, an initiative geared towards advancing social, institutional and legal equality in Arkansas, Alabama and Mississippi. HRC Arkansas continues to work to advance equality for LGBTQ Arkansans who have no state level protections in housing, workplace, or public accommodations. Through HRC Arkansas, we are working toward a future of fairness every day — changing hearts, minds and laws toward achieving full equality.