Over spring break I participated in PROMO’s Equality Day in Jefferson City. I had the opportunity to meet with mid-Missouri legislators to discuss the Missouri Nondiscrimination Act and the Safe Schools Act. MONA extends the existing Missouri Human Rights Statute to include lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and straight people. This act would prohibit discrimination related to employment, housing and public accommodations.
The Missouri Safe Schools Act provides protection from bullying and discrimination for Missouri students based on actual or perceived characteristics such as race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, or a mental, physical or sensory disability, or on the basis of association with others identified by these categories.
The Missouri Safe Schools Act requires schools to have a protocol in place to address bullying and harassment. The act also requires schools to have an outlined procedure to report bullying incidents. Needless to say, both of these acts are very important and should be taken seriously by every legislator. Rep. Stephen Webber, D-Columbia, is the sponsor behind MONA. I am proud to have him representing me, and my meeting with him was to thank him for his advocacy.
Sadly, my meeting with state Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, did not go as smoothly. When we described MONA, the nondiscrimination act, he responded by assuring us that Columbia had an ordinance to protect the LGBTQ community from discrimination. Sure, Columbia does, and it includes a $400 fine; that is it.
Sen. Schaefer represents more than Columbia as Boone County's state senator. His response was meant to appease us. Columbia is only one city in the entire state. Great, Columbia is covered, but we are talking about ending legal discrimination on the state level. He has the chance to be part of that effort. As he rushed by our group, saying goodbye, I asked him point blank, “Do you support MONA?”
He looked at me and said, “I haven’t seen it.” Then he walked out of the office.
MONA has been filed in the Missouri legislature consistently for a number of years. For someone who knows so much about the city ordinance in Columbia, I find it hard to believe he is not familiar with MONA. He was just another politician, dodging the question.
Columbia residents, I urge you to email our senator and tell him you want him to stand behind MONA and the Safe Schools Act. We elected him, now he needs to be held accountable by our community.
Equality Day was held during the week of the DOMA and Proposition 8 Supreme Court oral arguments. This week has been truly inspirational. Sen. Schaefer may not realize it yet, but by not taking a stance for equality, he is on the wrong side of history.
— Martha M. Stevens, graduate student, School of Social Work, firstname.lastname@example.org