On February 23, 2023, over thirty organizations gathered at the Arkansas State Capitol to “Stand for AR Rights.” At this event, Arkansas constituents with lived experience and organizations spoke about the proposed laws that will have a negative impact on the basic human and civil rights of Arkansans.
This should be an Arkansas that includes everyone and excludes no one; an Arkansas that turns scarce resources into creative solutions; an Arkansas that looks forward and does not move backward. An Arkansas that welcomes all of its people and empowers them to develop and employ their natural strengths for the benefit of our communities.
This is not the first time organizations have banded together to reach our lawmakers. In 2021, advocates of a diverse spectrum of Arkansans shared a common vision: To gather answers from legislators on the work they were doing that impacted everyday Arkansans. Unfortunately, we are still waiting for the answers.
Now, we ask again, what are you doing to:
- Protect and support the rights of Arkansans living with disabilities?
- Ensure the equitable treatment of Transgender Arkansans?
- Protect the safety and human rights of Arkansans who are LGBTQIA?
- Pass laws that make it easier, not harder, for Arkansans to vote and know their ballot will be counted?
- Include Indigenous, Black, Latinx, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI), and Marshallese communities at the table, when making policies that impact them?
- Pass laws that advance opportunities for immigrants?
- Take action to reduce gun violence?
- Pass laws to grow income equity in Arkansas?
- Pass laws that support educational equity throughout our state?
- Ensure that all children are safe and welcome in Arkansas schools?
- Ensure that all families have the same opportunities to attend school?
- Hold private schools accountable on testing standards?
- Treat people who are incarcerated and their families humanely?
- Protect the environment?
- Facilitate high-speed internet access for all communities?
- Protect residents of the State’s residential and long-term care facilities?
- Protect human rights and support the equity of women?
- Protect the youth in Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facilities (PRTFs) with more accountability and oversight from the state?
- Address the suicide prevention of youth in Arkansas?
- Protect against the exploitation of children in Arkansas?
- Ensure marginalized communities and underrepresented Arkansans have equitable access to housing, jobs, and education?
- Ensure access for Arkansans to high-quality, comprehensive health care?
Tragically, a large group of you are blatantly ignoring your constituents and taking our state backward. There are many opportunities to move our state forward, but it requires an open dialogue from everyone. The recent movement of the LEARNS bill illustrates the lack of dialogue.
We’re still waiting on forward progress.
You need to know that the legislative assault on civil and human rights has galvanized organizations and coalitions to band together and fight for Arkansas’ future.
We hereby commit to:
- Assisting Arkansas’ legislative body, in hopes they will rely upon us as allies to make positive change for Arkansans that need it most;
- Growing our coalition and its collective voice, and advocating at the intersection of these issues on a legislative level; and
- Educating voters on how their lawmakers represent them and their interests.
It is your responsibility as elected officials to reflect on these unanswered questions from your constituents and commit to the work of listening to and representing ALL Arkansans. We will work together to ensure that elected officials in Arkansas serve the best interests of Arkansans, not national political platforms.
Until then, Arkansas legislators who have recently been responsible for an assault on Arkansans’ civil and human rights must be held accountable. We have the power to elect lawmakers who will pass laws to make the lives of all Arkansans better.