LGBT bill

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JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri currently has no legislation stopping business owners, landlords and managers from refusing to do business with LGBT Missourians, or those that can be perceived that way.

20 years after it was first filed, the House of Representatives approved the Missouri Nondiscrimination Act (MONA).

With today being the end of the General Assembly, it is likely the bill won’t become law. But, this is the farthest any legal protection for LGBT Missourians has gone.

One of the bill’s sponsors, Rep. Greg Razer, D-Kansas City said, “We will be back for year 21 next year.”

Otto Fajen, the legislative director of the Missouri National Education Association (MNEA) was present in the hearing in support of MONA.

“We think it’s important for the Missouri Human Rights Act to extend the protections as it relates to education and employment, housing, disability and any other accommodation,” he said.

Fajen said MNEA has conversations with public school students, families and faculty about where the law currently stands. He says students are shocked when they learn that it’s possible for someone to be fired for being gay.

“We think the law ought to catch up to where our kids are,” Fajen said.

Fajen said, although he does not know anyone personally that has faced discrimination, he has heard stories about families and individuals being affected by the current laws. Teachers and all school employees are subject to termination and some parents and their children are left without shelter because of their sexuality or gender identity.

Additionally, Fajen says legislation at the state level would help solve issues surrounding transgender individuals using restrooms.

MONA is sponsored by representatives on both sides of the aisle, though some lawmakers are opposed to the bill. Concerns about the increase in chances for discrimination lawsuits in the workplace and opposition to homosexuality were the cited reasons.

A similar bill was crafted by Rep. Mike Stephens, R-Bolivar, but lacked protection for different gender identities. Fajen said any step toward equality of all people would be an improvement.

“I guess we would support progress,” he said.  

With hours left of the regular session, the bill’s sponsors and supporters are fully-prepared for the bill to die, though they are optimistic about its future.

“It absolutely is a victory because this is only the second time in the 20 year history that we’ve been introducing this bill, and let’s be honest, this is a bill that says, ‘you know what? Maybe it’s not a good idea to fire someone just because they’re gay,” Razer said.