NORTH LITTLE ROCK — More than 100 small Arkansas businesses have signed a pledge to support a diverse and inclusive workplace, a civil rights group said Tuesday.

NORTH LITTLE ROCK — More than 100 small Arkansas businesses have signed a pledge to support a diverse and inclusive workplace, a civil rights group said Tuesday.


The Human Rights Campaign, which promotes civil rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, made the announcement in a news conference that also featured sharp criticism of two pieces of Arkansas legislation the Human Rights Campaign considers hostile to the LGBT community.


"Our state has been making national and international headlines for some extremely bad legislation in recent weeks that has nothing to do with Arkansas values," Kendra Johnson, Arkansas state director for the Human Rights Campaign, told reporters at the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub in North Little Rock.


Johnson was referring to Act 137 of 2015, formerly Senate Bill 202, which prohibits cities and counties from passing ordinances that bar discrimination on any basis not in state law, including sexual orientation, and House Bill 1228, which would restrict the state’s ability to implement policies that individuals believe violate their religious beliefs.


Gov. Asa Hutchinson allowed Act 137 to become law without his signature. HB 1228 passed in the House but has stalled in a Senate committee.


Johnson said a more positive message is sent by the Equality Is Our Business program, which encourages businesses to sign a pledge to support workplace diversity and inclusion, put "Equality Is Our Business" stickers in their windows, and receive free diversity training. The pledge can be signed online at www.hrc.org.


"The over 100 businesses and counting that signed the pledge are saying to our legislators that Arkansas business owners support and embrace the LGBT community," Johnson said.


The group provided reporters with a list of 105 businesses that have signed the pledge, 76 of which are in Little Rock or Fayetteville.


Rep. Warwick Sabin, D-Little Rock, executive director of the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub, said he believes most Arkansas businesses are welcoming and tolerant toward employees and customers.


"I think it’s important to underscore that, especially in the current environment," he said.


Jack Sundell, co-owner of The Root Cafe in Little Rock, said he was proud to say his business is LGBT-friendly, which he said is not only the right thing to do but also "a sound business decision."


"Why should Arkansas give itself this negative stereotype that we’ve done?" he said.


Asked for a comment Tuesday, Sen. Bart Hester, R-Cave Springs, who sponsored Act 137, said the Human Rights Campaign "has no credibility with me."


Rep. Bob Ballinger, R-Hindsville, the sponsor of HB 1228, did not immediately return a call seeking comment Tuesday afternoon.