The Human Rights Campaign has launched a massive $8.5m (£5m) gay rights initiative across Mississippi, Alabama, and Arkansas.

They were named three of the least tolerant states towards homosexuality in December, and none of them have laws to protect LGBT people from discrimination.

The group, which advocates for same-sex marriage, as well as working on employment rights and protection from discrimination, will set up a base in Alabama for the first time.

The three-year initiative, unveiled today, will locate 20 staff across the states, in what HRC calls “the largest coordinated campaign for LGBT equality in the history of the South”.

HRC President Chad Griffin said: “Right now, this country is deeply divided into two Americas—one where LGBT equality is nearly a reality and the other where LGBT people lack the most fundamental measures of equal citizenship.

“Project One America is an unparalleled effort to close that gap, and it opens up a bold, new chapter in the LGBT civil rights movement of this generation. In this grand struggle for equality, we can’t write off anyone, anywhere.

“We’re not undertaking this work because it will lead to quick, easy or sweeping victories. We’re doing it because it is difficult.

“Folks in these three states shouldn’t have to wait a single day longer for one, fully equal, America.”

HRC has more than 24,000 members and supporters in Alabama, and there are countless more fair-mined people ready to stand on the right side of history.”

The staff will work with local communities and groups to build tolerance, lobby for legal protections and inclusivity, educate young people, and create safe spaces.