Jun 10, 2022 - News

Arkansas lags in LGBTQ+ equality

Data: Out Leadership; Chart: Erin Davis/Axios Visuals

A new report evaluates the business climate for LGBTQ+ people across the U.S., aiming to help leaders make equitable decisions about where to operate — in an increasingly polarizing country.

  • Arkansas ranked No. 46 on the index, lower than Texas (42), Alabama (43), Mississippi (44) and Louisiana (45).
  • Oklahoma ranked No. 49.

Why it matters: Doing business in a state that's hostile to LGBTQ+ rights can be costly. Disney learned this lesson earlier this year, after Florida passed what came to be known as the Don't Say Gay bill and the company became embroiled in a PR dustup, Axios' Emily Peck writes.

Context: A record number of bills focused on trans youth were introduced across the country in 2021. Last year, the Arkansas legislature overrode Gov. Asa Hutchinson's veto of a bill that prohibited physicians from providing hormone therapy or puberty blockers to transgender people younger than 18.

What they're saying: "As Arkansas celebrates Pride, we feel compelled to send a message of acceptance to the state’s LGBTQ community, who now live their lives under new policies that discriminate against them," Tom Walton, chair of the Home Region Program Committee at the Walton Family Foundation and co-founder of Runway Group, wrote in a blog post last June.

  • "These efforts hurt our communities, our economy and the many LGBTQ Arkansans who are our colleagues, neighbors, friends and family. It also sends the wrong message to those willing to invest in or visit our state," he added.

Details: To arrive at the business climate scores, researchers looked at data including:

  • State laws that impact LGBTQ+ people, like protections in housing, the workplace and foster care.
  • Religious exemption laws that might allow businesses to discriminate against people.
  • The relative difficulty transgender people face in changing gender markers on official documents.

The index also considers work environment and employment, looking at incidences of harassment, assault, mistreatment and the overall employment rates and incomes of LGBTQ+ workers.

The bottom line: The report finds ever-widening differences between the best and worst states. The good are getting better, and the less friendly are passing more anti-LGBTQ+ laws.


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