NAACP urges Greitens not to sign SB43
JEFFERSON CITY - NAACP supporters rallied at the state Capitol to ask Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens not to sign the workplace discrimination bill.
The House passed Senate Bill 43 (SB43), sponsored by Rep. Gary Romine, R-Farmington, in April and is currently awaiting Greitens' signature. On Tuesday, more than 30 people gathered at the statehouse to rally against the signature of the bill.
"Please, step back and veto SB43 on behalf of all these men and women that come before us," said Pat Rowe Kerr, former Missouri Veterans Commission employee.
Kerr told her story at the rally. She said she suffered discrimination from her boss at work, which later led to her dismissed. She filed a lawsuit and won. She spoke against the bill to protect future employees. Kerr and her husband have known Greitens for years, and she said she believes he will not sign the bill.
"I believe in Eric Greitens. I believe that he, at his core, has a heart that cares about people," she said. "And I haven't called Eric Greitens to talk about any other bill than this. I have called him and called him, and my husband Reverend Kerr has called him and gotten no response, which I find incredibly interesting. But I know that Eric, at the core, will make a decision that is not to support this bill."
The president of the Missouri NAACP state conference, Nimrod Chapel, led the rally. He said the goal of the group's rally was to make the people's voices heard.
"As we articulate the message of the people. One that we tried to get across to legislators when they passed the Senate Bill 43. Which legalizes discrimination. Makes civil rights in Missouri harder to protect, harder to defend."
If the governor signs the bill, Missourians pursuing discrimination lawsuits would be required to prove that protected statuses, such as race and religion, were motivating factors for action against them, instead of just contributing factors. This means Missourians would have to prove intent in order for their case to stand a chance in court.
"This bill makes it easy to discriminate, and those in the protected class will no longer have any protection. We can't afford to take civil rights back to 1961," Wallace Hartfield, a retired minister from Kansas City, said. "As an elderly African American, I am almost 90, I don't want to live through this tragedy twice."
Five different people spoke during the rally, and after, the group went in front of Greitens' door and posted several signs voicing their concerns. Members of the group also left three pairs of shoes to symbolize the steps towards equality that have been taken over the years.
When Romine proposed the legislation in February, he said cases of discrimination in Missouri need to be handled federally rather than through the state.
"There is a tremendous imbalance because right now because we have a lower standard known as contributing factor when these cases are decided," Romine said during debate. "So with that Mr. president, this bill will bring us back to the federal standards and the standards of the states that surround us."
After the rally, Chapel and other coalition members met with Greitens. The governor said he is “thinking it over," according to a member of the coalition.