Missouri does not have a law barring discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity for things like housing, access to public restrooms and in the workplace. A bill being considered by a House committee would expand Missouri’s Human Rights Act to make such acts illegal. Rep. Tom Hannegan (R-St. Charles) is co-sponsoring the measure.

Rep. Tom Hannegan (R-St. Charles)

“Discrimination is discrimination is discrimination,” says Hannegan. “I don’t believe in protected classes. I think everybody should have the same rights, the same freedoms, the same law of protection.”

During a hearing on the proposal, Brian Bunten with the Missouri Chamber of Commerce says it opposes adding another protected class to the law.

“If the bill offered to protect veterans, marital status, political affiliation, credit history, you name it, I’d be here offering the same exact testimony,” says Bunten.

Raymond McCarty with Associated Industries of Missouri and Rep. Gina Mitten (D-St. Louis) disagree about the issue.

“Establishing new protected classes for any group of people causes issues,” says McCarty.

“So when you say causes issues, is the only issue that you are referring the ability to sue employers,” asks Mitten.

“Yes,” replies McCarty.

“They do it the same way. It’s just different people,” says Mitten.

Retired Hannibal Presbyterian Church pastor Chuck Robb supports the measure.

“The issues of the pain and exclusion breaks my heart, not just as a human being but as a pastor,” says Robb.

The committee has not voted on the proposal. The 2017 Missouri legislative session ends May 12.

Similar legislation has been offered for several years. The furthest it has made it in the legislative process in recent history has been a public hearing.