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Missouri Legislature considering LGBTQ discrimination bill this session

The Missouri Legislature is back in session and lawmakers again are considering a bill that would add Missourians who identify as LGBTQ to a class of protected minorities such as blacks, women and others.

The Missouri Nondiscrimination Act (MONA), which was pre-filed again this session in the form of two House bills, seeks to expand the list of characteristics in the Missouri Human Rights Act, according to the Jefferson City News-Tribune. That law currently prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex and disability in housing, employment and public accommodation, as well as age-based discrimination in employment and familial status-based discrimination in housing.

Proponents say the bill would still be important as law even if the U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor of LGBTQ employees later this year. MONA has not passed out of a full legislative chamber vote since 2013, when then-Sen. Mike Parson was among the 19 senators who voted for it; 11 senators voted against the bill. The House did not take action on MONA then before session ended.

Those who oppose changing the definition of protected minorities say their fear is rooted in the same fear that Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch expressed — the fear of a landslide of lawsuits resulting from making gender identity and sexual orientation protected classes.

All Americans will get some measure of clarity on discrimination protections for LGBTQ people sometime this year, when the U.S. Supreme Court rules on cases centered on alleged employment discrimination against one transgender and two gay employees.

Gorsuch said during the hearings before the court that though there were strong arguments in favor of protection for LGBTQ employees, he thought it might be more appropriate for Congress — a legislative body — and not the court to change the law because of the massive upheaval he thought it was likely to cause.

Those three cases were argued Oct. 8, 2019, before the Supreme Court. The legal question at the heart of the cases is whether the prohibition against sex-based discrimination in Title VII federal employment law also protects against sexual orientation and gender identity-based discrimination.

Last year, Attorney General Eric Schmitt joined state attorneys general nationwide in signing a U.S. Supreme Court brief outlining the position against adding the definition to the laws.

Their contention is whether  current lack of  protections violates a federal law banning sex discrimination.  Schmitt’s spokesman Chris Nuelle said in the fall that when the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, sex discrimination did not include transgender people. Nuelle says it’s up to Congress, and not the Supreme Court, to change that.

Nuelle says Schmitt believes that regardless of “race, creed, zipcode, or gender,” everyone should be treated with dignity under the law.

But the debate remains whether a person who “decides” they want to live a live opposite what their DNA dictates – such as their sex – should be listed in the same class as those who were born genetically female or black.

The change in Missouri’s laws would affect 187,000 Missourians who identify as LGBTQ.

Missouri’s human rights law includes exceptions for religious and other private groups, and the current MONA House bills do not include language that would change those exceptions.

–Alan Goforth | Metro Voice