The U.S. government says a new controversial discrimination law in Missouri fails to meet federal standards.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, has determined that protections under the Missouri Human Rights Act are not in compliance with federal standards in the Fair Housing Act.
In a letter dated July 14th to state Human Rights Commission Director Alisa Warren, the agency cites Senate Bill 43, which Governor Eric Greitens signed into law in late June, as the reason for the shortcoming.
The measure stiffened the threshold for proving discrimination in lawsuits. Under the new law, a practice is unlawful if the protected classification – based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin – is “the motivating factor” in a decision to discriminate. Previously, the protected classification needed only to be “a contributing factor” in order to prove discrimination.
In its letter to Director Warren, HUD said the state Human Rights Act must be restored to Fair Housing Act standards by March 1st, 2018, or Missouri will be suspended from participating in the Fair Housing Assistance Program.
In a statement, Missouri House Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty claimed the state would lose as much as $500,000 a year in federal funding under the new law.
HUD is also requiring the state to inform people who’re claiming discrimination about the change in Missouri law. It’s calling for the state to advise those people of the right to file their discrimination complaints with the federal government instead.
Senate Bill 43 was contentious from the moment it was debated in a House committee.
When NAACP head Nimrod Chapel said during testimony that the bill would bring back “Jim Crow” laws – state statutes beginning in the 1870’s allowing legal discrimination against African-Americans — Republican committee chair Rep. Bill Lant, of Pineville, ordered Chapel’s microphone turned off and said his testimony was over.
The measure is also cited in a travel advisory issued by the Missouri chapter of the NAACP that was also adopted by the national organization.
Senate Bill 43 was sponsored by Senate Republican Gary Romine of Farmington. He owns a small chain of rent-own stores that have been involved in a discrimination lawsuit brought by a former employee.