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Covering state lawmakers, bills, and policy emerging from Jefferson City.

Missouri House Democrats Push Nondiscrimination Act

Democrats in the Missouri House are ramping up their efforts to pass legislation prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

The Missouri Nondiscrimination Act, known as MONA, was filed weeks ago but has yet to have a public hearing.

The current Missouri Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex and disability in employment, housing and “public accommodation,” which refers to access and service at businesses and facilities. MONA would add sexual orientation and gender identity to that list. 

State Rep. Greg Razer, D-Kansas City, is the sponsor of the proposal again this year.

“I have, for the last four years, been speaking on this issue a lot,” Razer said at a press conference Wednesday. “To be honest with you, I’m struggling to figure out what more I can say.” 

For more than two decades, lawmakers have introduced this idea in the Missouri statehouse, but it has failed to generate enough support to pass. Those in opposition of the proposal say they are not in support of discrimination but believe businesses are responsible for creating policy decisions. 

State Rep. Tom Hannegan, R-St. Charles, has also filed a version of this bill. Neither have been assigned to a committee. 

Meanwhile, Democrats say there are several proposals that they classify as anti-LGBTQ moving through the legislative process. 

One of those ideas is a proposed constitutional amendment that would mandate all public school student athletes to compete with their biological sex. The sponsor of the measure, state Rep. Robert Ross, R-Yukon, said it’s a matter of fairness. He said males have more of a competitive advantage, and it’s also about safety.

“When males and females are competing against one another, studies also show that there’s more aggressive competition and risk of injury,’” Ross said in a public hearing on the resolution last week. 

Ross also read letters from female athletes to the committee that expressed concerns about women losing out on scholarship opportunities when competing against athletes who are gendertransitioning. 

Opponents of the idea say this would unfairly exclude transgender students and could put them at risk of harassment and harm because of public opposition before a vote. 

At the press conference on Wednesday, Corey Hyman, a transgender 14-year-old from St. Charles, spoke against Ross’ proposal. 

“I’m scared for myself and others in my community because if the bills were to go through, it would make a lot of people upset and lives would be lost,” Hyman said. “We deserve dignity and respect just like everyone else, and we’re just the same as every other person.” 

Razer said: “If the majority party thinks that attacking transgender people is the way to win elections, that if they think they’ve lost the culture war on gay, lesbian and bisexual issues so now they’ve found the next group to pick on, then bring it on.” 

Democrats have filed two other proposals they believe to be inclusive and support equal rights for the LGBTQ community. One idea would prohibit psychologists and other licensed professionals from using so-called conversion therapy. Another would require schools to familiarize students with LGBTQ history and teach about their contributions to society.Follow Jaclyn on Twitter: @DriscollNPR

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Copyright 2020 St. Louis Public Radio

Jaclyn Driscoll is the Jefferson City statehouse reporter for St. Louis Public Radio. She joined the politics team in 2019 after spending two years at the Springfield, Illinois NPR affiliate. Jaclyn covered a variety of issues at the statehouse for all of Illinois' public radio stations, but focused primarily on public health and agriculture related policy. Before joining public radio, Jaclyn reported for a couple television stations in Illinois and Iowa as a general assignment reporter.