Arkansas Among States Leading Nation in Anti-LGBTQ+ Legislation
The state of Arkansas is among 23 states considered unaccepting towards LGBTQ+ equality.
The Human Rights Campaign recently released its State Equality Index, an annual state-by-state report that reviews statewide laws and policies that affect LGBTQ+ people and their families. Arkansas was categorized, “high priority to achieve basic equality,” the index’s lowest ranking.
“I think it’s a sign of where we are socially and culturally,” said Cathryn Oakley, senior director for legal policy at the Human Rights Campaign. “When people see those states, including Arkansas, in the bottom group I don’t think anybody is surprised.”
Arkansas lawmakers passed a number of laws in last year’s legislative session restricting the rights and conduct of LGBTQ+ people. Those include banning teachers from referring to students by preferred pronouns, as well as a bill limiting “adult-oriented” performances in the state. According to Oakley, this is part of a concerted legislative attack on the LGBTQ+ community nationwide.
“This is really a pivot from where we were in 2019,” says Oakley. “The report tells a story of where the opposition has been investing its resources.”
Policies restricting the rights of LGBTQ+ people have seen a sharp rise in many states across the country. While these policies are receiving strong support from lawmakers, Oakley says that voters have more pressing concerns that aren’t being addressed.
“Polls show that voters have a very low priority for these issues, they have a dozen things they care about more,” she said.
It’s Oakley’s belief that, through gerrymandering, state legislatures are taking advantage of voters’ low interest in LGBTQ+ issues to enact policies that are “only desired by a very small percent of the population.”
Bills restricting gender-affirming care for transgender minors gained approval from lawmakers last year, despite public protests in some states. In March, 2023, Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed a bill that prohibits transgender youth from using their preferred restroom in public schools. That law went into effect last year.
You can view the Human Rights Campaign’s full report for Arkansas here.