The Human Rights Campaign, a national gay-equality organization, on Monday announced results from a recent survey evaluating challenges faced by the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in Arkansas.
Speaking at a news conference at the state Capitol, Project One America Director Brad Clark said the survey — conducted online in February and March by the Human Rights Campaign in Mississippi, Arkansas and Alabama — was the largest survey of its kind across the South.
“It surveys the needs and priorities of LGBT people in all three of these states,” he said. “The results were not that shocking or surprising perhaps. LGBT folks have the same hopes and dreams as anyone else.”
Fifty-eight percent of Arkansas' LGBT community have called the state home for more than 20 years, and nine percent have served or are serving in the armed forces, according to the survey. It also states that Arkansas has one of the highest rates of same-sex couples raising children.
Of those surveyed, 25 percent claim to have experienced employment discrimination, 37 percent reported they've been harassed at work and 38 percent said they earn less than $45,000 per year.
Beyond the workplace, 39 percent said they've been harassed by members of their family, 43 percent were purportedly harassed in public establishments, 16 percent reported harassment from a public servant and 18 percent were said to have experienced harassment at least monthly at their places of worship.
The Human Rights Campaign launched Project One America earlier this year to further evaluate these claims and "dramatically expand LGBT equality in the South through permanent campaigns in Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas," according to its website.
“LGBT folks face some incredible obstacles in terms of discrimination or harassment, from the workplace to the church pews, and that’s what we seek to change,” Clark said.
In addition to announcing the survey results, the Human Rights Campaign also announced the new director for its Arkansas office.
Kendra Johnson, 43, will lead the organization’s Project One America effort across the state.
Clark said Arkansas needed a leader who is familiar with the obstacles someone in the LGBT community faces on a daily basis.
"Our team has been searching high and low, holding countless interviews in an attempt to identify just the right person to lead our campaign here in Arkansas, and we found that in the new Arkansas state director Kendra Johnson,” Clark said.
Johnson said she’s "looking forward to really to making a positive change in Arkansas, changing hearts and minds.”
“[I’m working on] creating a dialogue so there’s broader understanding and advancing protections for LGBT Arkansans,” she said.
Johnson received her undergraduate degree from Spelman College in Atlanta, where she started the university's first LGBT support group, and earned a graduate degree from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. She most recently worked at Better Community Development, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.
“Creating safe spaces has been a passion for me,” Johnson said Monday.