Abbreviated by the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, a four-day Week 2 of the 2023 Arkansas legislative session wrapped Friday at the Arkansas State Capitol. Nearly 300 bills have already been filed with no shortage of attacks on the civil rights and liberties of Arkansans. 

In a moving show of solidarity, hundreds of LGBTQ supporters showed up on the Capitol steps Thursday to rally against SB43, a bill filed on the first day of the legislative session by Senator Gary Stubblefield (R-26) and Rep. Mary Bentley (R-73), aiming to treat drag brunch and story hour the same as sex shops, peep shows and strip clubs to limit the areas in which drag queens and transgender people may appear or interact. 

Despite overwhelming testimony against the bill, it unanimously passed through the Senate City, County and Local Affairs committee and is headed to the Senate floor where, if passed, will likely be referred to the City, County and Local Affairs committee for a vote.  

Read our joint statement against SB43 here, then watch ACLU of Arkansas Executive Director Holly Dickson testify against SB43 at the 11:02 a.m. mark of Thursday’s committee meeting. 

Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders also stoked culture wars by signing seven executive orders on her first day in office – including one to ban the teaching of critical race theory in K-12 classrooms and another to remove the term “Latinx” from government documents. Outlawing free speech and attacking Black and Brown Arkansans on her first day in office is in direct conflict with her duty to uphold the constitutional rights guaranteed to every Arkansan. Contact Gov. Sanders and remind her.

Read more about the bills we were tracking in Week 2 below:

LGBTQ Rights

HB1156: Sponsored by Rep. Mary Bentley (R-73) and Senator Dan Sullivan (R-20), HB1156 is a bathroom bill that would require students in K-12 public and open-enrollment charter schools to use male- or female-exclusive restrooms according to their gender assigned at birth and requires hotel rooms for overnight school trips to be assigned according to a student’s gender assigned at birth. 

HB1156 was assigned to the House Education Committee where it awaits action pending a fiscal impact report outlining how much money it might cost to bring schools into compliance. This could happen as early as this week.

The ACLU is mapping attacks by state legislatures on LGBTQ rights across the U.S. Read more about what’s happening nationwide here.

Reproductive Freedom

HB1174: Filed Thursday by sponsors Richard Womack (R-90) and Matt McKee (R-6) , HB1174 is intended to allow prosecution of groups helping pregnant people figure out their options and access abortion if that is their choice. As written, however, the bill would revise Arkansas criminal code to allow the prosecution of people who have abortions. It also may affect access to emergency contraception like Plan B. It was referred to the House Judiciary Committee where it awaits action.

Free Speech

SB62: Filed by Senator Ricky Hill (R-11) and Rep. Jeff Wardlaw (R-94), SB62 is an extension of Act 710 of 2017, requiring private business contracting with the state to sign a pledge certifying they will not boycott Israel. This bill would require another pledge that private businesses won't boycott energy, fossil fuel, firearms, or munitions manufacturers. Proponents of these bills will keep working to prohibit speech they don’t agree with or like until no such speech is allowed.  It was referred to the Senate State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Criminal Legal Reform

Legislators have introduced a number of bills with increasingly harsh sentences for various offenses, as well as legislation to raise fines and fees at a time when most states are recognizing how ineffective, inequitable and unjust excessive fines are and are responding to make the system more equitable.

Action Alert!

Contact your legislators and let them know you oppose all anti-LGBTQ legislation and ineffective and harsh criminal legal reforms that have failed time and again. Tell them Arkansans need more freedoms and not attacks on our liberty; and ask them to create real solutions for their constituents, not more problems. 

House In-Session Line: 501-682-6211

Senate In-Session Line: 501-682-2902

Sign our petition to stop attacks on LGBTQ Arkansans.