Editorial: Will 22nd time be a charm in getting LGBT rights recognized in Missouri?

Editorial: Will 22nd time be a charm in getting LGBT rights recognized in Missouri?

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Republican state lawmakers have filed no fewer than 15 bills this year attempting to diminish the rights of LGBT Missourians. And for the 22nd consecutive year, those same GOP members are poised to block legislation backing the simple premise that discrimination based on someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity is as unacceptable as discrimination based on skin color or gender. When is the majority party in this state finally going to enter the 21st century?

Every year since 1998, proponents have fought for approval of the Missouri Non-Discrimination Act. It adds sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of reasons — along with race, gender, ethnicity and others — for which landlords, employers and businesses cannot discriminate.

This shouldn’t be controversial. Most Missourians in 2020 would find it abhorrent if a landlord declared a refusal to rent to black tenants or an office manager refused to consider female job applicants. How is such discrimination any more acceptable when based on someone’s choice of partner or gender identity?

As aptly expressed by Rep. Greg Razer, D-Kansas City, the bill’s sponsor and one of four openly gay legislators in Missouri, the bill “does nothing more than extend the same legal protections that most Missourians enjoy to the rest of us.”

Last year, the legislation saw a breakthrough of sorts when it received a promising reception from Republican Gov. Mike Parson. But Parson’s fellow Republicans in the Legislature let it languish, not even giving it a committee assignment until the final stretch of the session. Ultimately, it didn’t even get a floor vote.

Razer’s bill still doesn’t have a hearing scheduled — even as a hearing was conducted for a measure that would allow parents to pull their kids out of any class or school activity that involved material related to sexual orientation or gender identity.

As the mother of one transgender child pointed out, kids experience active-shooter drills starting in kindergarten, yet that’s somehow deemed “less traumatizing and less scary than learning that transgender humans and LGBTQ humans exist.” That parent, as quoted in the Columbia Missourian, decried the legislation for “trying to erase” her child from the curriculum.

The fact that this is an election year might doom any chance of getting Republicans to come around on the non-discrimination act, but it doesn’t have to. Missourians, like other Americans, are generally more tolerant on LGBT issues today than they used to be.

Parson has shown streaks of independence from the more dogmatic elements of his party before. He would enhance that reputation in his election bid by strongly staking out the tolerant position he appeared to embrace last year. It could actually turn out to be politically shrewd — with the added benefit of being the right thing to do.

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