HRC: Growth In Arkansas LGBT Visibility Meets Unwavering Discrimination

By Jorge Rodriguez-Jimenez

Originally published on Advocate.com July 28 2014 3:41 PM ET

While a growing number of LGBT families and couples are settling down in southern states like Arkansas, many still face discrimination in the workplace, at school, or within their religious congregations.

The Human Rights Campaign’s Project One America released the findings of the largest study conducted in the state of Arkansas of LGBT people. Of those who participated, 25 percent report experiencing discrimination at work and 37 percent experienced harassment at work. Forty-four percent of respondents have experienced harassment at the high school level. And while 82 percent of Arkansans are insured, the study shows that only a quarter of LGBT Arkansans have access to partner benefits.

Meanwhile, Arkansas has one of the highest rates of same-sex couples raising children, according to a 2013 study by The Williams Institute. That report says that 21 percent of same-sex couples in Arkansas are raising a biological, adopted or stepchild. Mississippi has the most LGBT-headed families with 26 percent of same-sex couples raising children.

According to the HRC study, 58 percent of participants have lived in Arkansas for more than 20 years and almost one in 10 have served or are serving in the military. LGBT Arkansans also said they would like to raise children, if they do not already have children.

“The survey revealed LGBT Arkansans are just like their friends and family members — living, working, and volunteering in their communities,” Project One America director Brad Clark said on the HRC website. “However, they face harsh realities living in the state they call home. We have a moral responsibility to change that.”

LGBT Arkansans are also more likely to attend religious services. One-third of LGBT Arkansans are people of faith, and 44 percent of those respondents are African American. Thirty-two percent say they donate money to their houses of worship, according to the HRC.

“We know faith and strong families are essential values to the lives of LGBT people,” Project One America Faith and Religion associate director Joseph Ward told the HRC. “This survey clearly shows LGBT Arkansans and their families actively participate in their churches.”

This study comes at a time when Little Rock, Ark. native, Kendra Johnson, has been appointed as state director for the HRC. Johnson will be leading a $8.5 million Project One America campaign to bring equality in three southern states, according to KTBS 3.