Just more than 500 miles away in the city of Columbus, Ohio, Savanna Delong just won the city’s first-ever transgender discrimination case. According to an article by LGBTQ Nation, Delong’s employer, Capital Club, was fined $1,000 after pleading no contest in the suit brought against it. In early 2011, Capital Club stopped giving Delong hours after she came out as transgender, but because Columbus added gender identity to their anti-discrimination laws in 2008, Delong got her day in court — and she won.
“It gave me a lot more self-confidence,” Delong said. “It made me realize Columbus is a pretty good place.”
Columbus may be a pretty good place for the transgender community, but if Delong had lived just three states over in the Show-Me State, her story might have ended differently.
Currently in Missouri, an individual can be fired from their job or denied housing or public accommodations for no other reason than their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Let me repeat that.
Missourians can be openly discriminated against in the workplace or in the housing market because of their LGBTQ affiliation.
Granted, some of Missouri’s cities — Columbia, Kansas City and St. Louis, among others — have done as Columbus and adopted LGBTQ rights into their non-discrimination laws, but what about the rest of Missouri?
State Rep. Stephen Webber, D-Columbia, has introduced the Missouri Nondiscrimination Act into the Missouri Senate multiple years in a row without much success. If passed, MONA would ban the discrimination of individuals based on sexual orientation in the entirety of Missouri.
Though MONA would be an incredible feat for gay, lesbian and bisexual Missourians, it still leaves the transgender community without protection in the seemingly never-ending struggle for basic civil liberties.
Shockingly, Missouri is not alone in its lack of laws protecting the LGBTQ community from discrimination. According to the Human Rights Campaign, in 29 states it is legal to discriminate based on sexual orientation, and 34 states allow that same discrimination based on gender identity. But if you live in Texas, Kansas, Montana or Oklahoma, you can just forget about securing those rights, because in those four states simply being gay is still illegal.
In a society that is constantly bombarded with same-sex marriage advocacy, we tend to overlook the fact that marriage equality is not the only discrimination the LGBTQ community faces. We need activism like Webber’s to push legislation forward that promotes equality in all attributes of the word, and that legislation needs to be bipartisan if we want to see progress.
My fellow columnist Alex Pesek rightfully argues equality is necessary for everyone in the queer community and that we must be wary of the motivation behind the current conservative swing of same-sex marriage sponsorship.
I wholeheartedly agree that Republicans hope to sway some LGBTQ folk to voting in their favor with their backing of same-sex marriage and other LGBTQ-friendly initiatives. But without bipartisan affirmation, the LGBTQ rights movement will hit a standstill. Just as the Republicans hope to use the queer community for their own gain, the queer community can benefit equally by using the Republicans right back.
As long as any form of LGBTQ discrimination is legal, people will continue to hide their bigotry behind the laws that permit them. Just as we didn’t wait for racism to cease to exist before passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, we can’t wait around for homophobia and transphobia to taper off. We must act now so that Delong and other LGBTQ folk can win their discrimination cases, no matter if they live in Columbus, Columbia or anywhere in between.
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