Legislation adding sexual orientation and gender identity to Missouri’s Human Rights statute was heard Wednesday afternoon by a House committee in Jefferson City. The House General Laws Committee heard about 90 minutes of testimony, before a standing-room only audience.
State Rep. Greg Razer, D-Kansas City, who is gay, is the bill sponsor. Razer testifies it is not illegal in Missouri or nationally to fire someone for being LGBT.
“It is perfectly fine (under current law) to fire someone from their job, evict them from their home or deny them service say, at a restaurant, simply because you know they are or think they might be LGBT,” Razer says.
Razer says people can lose their homes and their jobs because they are gay or lesbian.
He emphasizes the bill is not special treatment for LGBT people, adding this is the 21st straight year the bill has been filed.
Razer and State Rep. Tom Hannegan, R-St. Charles, have filed the same bill. Hannegan, who is also gay, testifies this is about constitutional rights and about people being equal.
Razer’s House Bill 208 would prohibit discrimination based upon a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
Several religious organizations testified against the bill on Wednesday.
Grandview-based Desert Stream Ministries community outreach coordinator Amanda Smith testified against the bill, saying she identified as a lesbian 12 years ago and dated women. Smith is worried about what will happen next, if the bill passes.
State Rep. Peter Merideth, D-St. Louis, who supports the bill, questioned Smith at the hearing.
“Do you think at that time in your life (12 years ago) while you were going through that period that it would have been okay for a landlord to deny you an apartment because they didn’t like that you identified as male?,” Merideth asked Smith.
“No,” Smith replied.
The Jefferson City-based Missouri Catholic Conference also testified against Razer’s legislation. Catholic Conference executive director Tyler McClay cites religious liberty concerns.
“The concern is regarding faith-based organizations that provide foster care and adoption care services in other states where this law has been passed, they have been shut out of government contracts,” McClay testifies.
The Missouri Baptist Convention also testified against the bill.
Missouri’s oldest business association also testified against the Razer-Hannegan legislation. Associated Industries of Missouri (AIM) President Ray McCarty testifies that creating a new cause of action for sexual orientation and gender identity is troublesome.
“According to the American Psychological Association, sexual orientation really involves your emotional attraction to another person, which is different than other types of protection,” says McCarty.
McCarty also says Missouri lawmakers should wait until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on three cases, cases he says could establish whether existing federal protection against sex discrimination applies to alleged discrimination because of sexual orientation and gender identity.
But Razer says the time to act is now, adding this is not a special law and that this is not a new law.
The St. Louis Regional Chamber and some other business representatives testified for the bill, saying it’s the right thing to do and will also improve the economy. A representative from Monsanto also testified for Razer’s bill.
The House General Laws Committee did not vote on the bill Wednesday, and is not expected to meet again until next week.
The 2019 legislative session ends on May 17. Razer says lawmakers can pass the bill before session ends.
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