LGBTQ Organization Brings Supreme Court Fight to State Capitol

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JEFFERSON CITY - Promo, an organization fighting for equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, and queer (LGBTQ) individuals in Missouri, held its annual equality day at the state capitol on Wednesday, coinciding with one of the the days the United States Supreme Court is hearing one of two landmark same-sex marriage cases.

The organization targeted officials who serve on committees that are dealing with two pieces of legislation that Promo believes are important to the LGBTQ community.

Promo looks to win passage of a bill that would revise the definition of "discrimination" to include sexual orientation and gender identity. The measure is sponsored by Rep. Steven Webber, D-Columbia, in the house. Webber said at the rally that he sees more supporters come up to him in each legislative session that he sponsors the legislation. Sen. Jolie Justus, D-Jackson County, the openly gay minority floor leader, is sponsoring a similar bill in the Senate.

Promo also looks to win passage of a bill sponsored by Sen. Scott Sifton, D-St.Louis, that would require anti-bullying policies at school districts in the state to bar bullying that is motivated by a student's sexual orientation.

Claire Cook, the Kansas City and mid-Missouri field organizer for Promo, said Missourians can be fired for being gay, can be kicked out of their homes for being a lesbian or can be kicked off a bus or out of a restaurant if someone believes they are LGBTQ.

"We want to add sexual orientation and gender identity to Missouri human rights statute to make it so that you can't be fired and to protect LGBT people in employment, housing and non-discrimination," Cook said.

Cook said she believes Missouri lies somewhere in the middle of the country in terms of the protections it affords to LGBTQ people. Cook said Missouri has inclusive hate crime laws, yet 20 states have non-discrimination policies, which Missouri does not have.

Rep. Mike Colona, D-St.Louis, the only openly gay man serving in the General Assembly, told organizers he has gotten choked up while following the Supreme Court cases in Washington.

"You know what, after having a partner of 20 years that puts up with me, this really might happen," Colona said.

Rep. Kevin Engler, R-Farmington, attended the rally to demonstrate that his positions have changed. Engler sponsored a constitutional ban of gay marriage in the House in 2004, and still does not support same-sex marriage. However, Engler said LGBTQ individuals should have legal protections from discrimination.