Missouri takes step toward LGBT acceptance

HB 407 would revise the definition of discrimination to protect against the discrimination of various sexual orientations and gender identities.

Missouri law currently does not protect against discrimination of various sexual orientations and gender identities.

“Individuals who identify as LGBT, they can be fired from their jobs … denied housing or removed from public accommodations, simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Kirstin Palovick, regional field organizer for St. Louis PROMO.

However, Rep. Stephen Webber, D-Columbia, hopes this will soon change. Webber introduced HB 407, which would revise “the definition of ‘discrimination’ to include unfair treatment based on sexual orientation or gender identity.”

“People should be able to live free from fear of being discriminated against based on who they are,” Webber said. “It sends a clear message that Missouri is open for everyone, (and) that we treat everybody with respect.”

This is the sixth consecutive year Weber has filed what is referred to as MONA, or the Missouri Nondiscrimination Act. He said he keeps trying because it’s the right thing to do.

“I think every year more and more people recognize need for it, and more and more people are comfortable standing up for LGBT rights,” Webber said. “So I think every year we get more allies, more supporters and gain more momentum.”

While Webber said he acknowledges 2015 might not be the year it passes, he knows it’ll happen eventually. All previous civil rights movements took place over several years, and this change is no different, he said.

MU freshman Jack Miller said he defines his sexual orientation as gay and his sexual identity as cisgender. He said the passing of this bill would make everything a little easier.

“You never really expect to hand in a job application or walk into a store and be turned down or treated differently because of something like that, but if it happened, then it’d just feel horrible,” Miller said.

While Miller said he personally has never experienced discrimination, he has experienced disapproval from strangers. He said this bill would help him feel more relieved and safer.

“The sad thing is, if you’re gay or trans or bi or anything like that, then you do kind of carry a weight on your shoulders because there are going to be people who look at you or treat you differently because of that,” Miller said. “If this bill were to pass, it would take a little bit of that weight off our shoulders, off my shoulders.”

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