Democrats in the Missouri House want to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, but their proposals have yet to be assigned to a committee for a hearing.
The sponsor of the Missouri Nondiscrimination Act, state Rep. Greg Razer, of Kansas City, told St. Louis Public Radio that he’s frustrated about the lack of progress.
“I have, for the last four years, been speaking on this issue a lot,” Razer said. “To be honest with you, I’m struggling to figure out what more I can say.”
State law already bans discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex and disability. Proposals to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity have fallen flat in the Missouri Legislature in the past. Opponents say they aren’t in favor of discrimination, but that they believe businesses should be able to create their own policies.
Democrats are also concerned that another proposal in the Legislature could hurt LGBTQ rights. The proposed constitutional amendment would require all public school athletes to compete against students of their biological rather than their chosen sex; opponents fear that would unfairly exclude transgender students or put them at risk of harassment.
“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,” said 14-year-old Corey Hyman, a transgender student from St. Charles. “We deserve dignity and respect just like everyone else, and we’re just the same as every other person.”
State Rep. Robert Ross, who sponsored the sports amendment, said it’s a matter of fairness and safety because biological males have a competitive advantage over females.
“When males and females are competing against one another, studies also show that there’s more aggressive competition and risk of injury,’” said Ross, R-Yukon, at a public hearing on the resolution.
Two more Democrat-sponsored resolutions aim to support equal rights for the LGBTQ community. One would prohibit so-called conversion therapy — the scientifically discredited practice of using therapy to “convert” LGBTQ people to heterosexuality or traditional gender expectations — and the other would require schools to introduce curriculum detailing LGBTQ history.