LGBTQ community expands mission after Orlando shootings

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COLUMBIA - The Center Project, a non-profit organization aimed at helping the LGBTQ community, is looking to expand its mission.

It's hoping to write a grant for a program that would address intersectionality to include minority groups, including people of color.

It would offer additional programming that would help people of color in the LGBTQ community, especially after the Orlando nightclub massacre.

Rachael Doubledee, a volunteer for the Center Project, said the mass shooting hurt more than just people who identify as LGBTQ.

"It's not just being a part of this great community of people of LGBTQ community, it's also a part of these stigma that people experience. And the Orlando shooting really cut deep for the Latino community as well," Doubledee said.

This grant proposal comes as the United States marks one year since the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage.

"Since that time, it's not unusual at all to have same-sex couple come in. I wouldn't call it a daily thing, daily occurrence, but it's not unusual either," Ralph Bray, Cole County Recorder of Deeds, said.

Cole County has not collected same-sex marriage data separately. But in Boone County, there are 100 same-sex couples in total from June 2015 to June 2016 that have applied for a marriage license.

However, Doubledee believes legalizing same-sex marriage is just a step to lessening the discrimination in the right direction, but the whole society is not there yet.

"We all want to be seen as people, it shouldn't matter who people want to date, who people want to love. I mean, why would it matter who people want to love?" Doubledee said.

Both Doubledee and Neil Carr, a volunteer board member, do not think Missouri did a good job of protecting gay rights.

"I think that Missouri does a terrible job of dealing with those kinds of discriminations. If you look at the bills that are introduced in a recession in a state legislature, there was a bill that's last session that would made it illegal for state employees to publicly support members of LGBTQ community," Carr said. 

The Center Project is also getting ready to move in to a new location.

"Our budget is relatively small. We're completely volunteer with no paid staff, and 80 to 90 percent of our budget is taken up by occupancy, whether it's rent or utilities. So the's allowing us significantly reduce our cost of occupancy," Carr said.

The new location will be at 515 Hickman Ave., and it hoped to be moving in the first week of August.

"Most recently it was a day care. Prior to that it was a church. In fact, we recently discovered that it was the first LGBTQ family church in Columbia," Carr said.

The Center Project is 11 years old this year, and Carr said this is the first time that the Center Project would own a building rather than rent.

"We're always hoping to grow and expand with the Center Project does and the number of people in the community that we serve. So perhaps in the future it might grow again, but I see us staying at this [new] location for quite a long time," Carr said.

The Center Project will hold an open house on July 16 from 2-6 p.m.