Press

Uniting for Change: NGLTF, Arkansas Equality Network Build Collaborative Model

Date: 
April 17, 2001

With Arkansas Legislature now adjourned, anti-gay adoption bill is dead; hate crimes bill cleared Senate

Due in part because of a collaborative effort between the Arkansas Equality Network (AEN) and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, activists in the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community made significant inroads during the recently completed Arkansas legislative session.

Activists were successful in twice defeating a bill that would have prevented gay and lesbian people from adopting children. In addition, a hate crimes bill that included sexual orientation passed the Arkansas Senate for the first time ever on a strong vote - but unfortunately died in the House.

"The partnership with NGLTF has dramatically increased AEN's ability to muster the people power necessary to advance a pro-GLBT legislative agenda," said Anne Shelley, AEN director. "Through the collaborative work NGLTF and AEN have completed over the past year, we’ve created a lasting and powerful state movement for equality."

"In Arkansas together we built a strong, autonomous campaign that has the capacity to mobilize constituents in legislative districts across the state," said NGLTF Executive Director Elizabeth Toledo. "The future success of organizing in many states - particularly in the South - depends on such collaboration. Local groups need support in order to recruit, train and energize GLBT activists and allies."

NGLTF launched an intensive focus on organizing in Arkansas last summer, when NGLTF field organizer Dan Hawes and AEN's Shelley crisscrossed the state, meeting one on one with 58 different activists. The two concentrated on six Arkansas communities - Fayetteville, Little Rock, Monticello, Fort Smith, Jonesboro, and Texarkana. Together they recruited 600 people to launch a "Pledge Against Hate" campaign that led to community action meetings across the state generating letters and phone calls persuading state legislators to support hate crimes legislation. NGLTF and AEN also helped build a broad-based coalition to support the hate crimes bill. Coalition groups included the NAACP Voter Fund, National Conference for Communities and Justice, Citizens First Congress, Arkansas Education Association, and the Racial and Cultural Diversity Commission.

In addition, NGLTF's Toledo toured three college campuses during fall 2000, and Arkansas brought the nation’s largest contingent to the NGLTF Foundation's annual Creating Change conference, held last November in Atlanta.

NGLTF also helped AEN lobby for hate crimes legislation as well as defeat the state's anti-gay and lesbian adoption bill by providing technical legal assistance. Paula Ettelbrick, NGLTF's Family Policy Director and Hector Vargas, NGLTF's State Legislative Lawyer, worked closely with AEN representatives and provided legislative language, legal analysis and strategic advice that local advocates used in developing talking points and in meetings with key legislators and policy makers.

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The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.