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Equality Under Attack? Missouri Considers Anti-LGBT Bills

At least 15 bills under consideration by the Missouri Legislature target protections for LGBT individuals. (Adobe Stock)
At least 15 bills under consideration by the Missouri Legislature target protections for LGBT individuals. (Adobe Stock)
February 21, 2020

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - Civil rights organizations say bills introduced this session in the Missouri Legislature are part of a larger-scale attack against LGBT individuals.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, dozens of measures are pending in states across the country that would undermine the rights of people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender - including 15 bills in Missouri.

Sara Baker, legislative and policy director with the ACLU of Missouri, cites House Bill 1721 as one example. It would prohibit doctors from administering hormone therapy for transgender youth.

"Hormone therapy can be life-affirming for a trans youth as they make their transition and try to be true to who they are," says Baker. "And getting affirming care greatly decreases the risk of suicide in the LGBT community. But the Legislature has tried to take a very pejorative view towards that essential, life-affirming care."

Similar bills to block treatments related to gender reassignment were filed in several states.

Missouri lawmakers are also considering bills that would define gender as determined by genotype (SB 988), permit discrimination in foster care (HB 2043), and exclude transgender youth from athletics (HJR 82/SJR 50).

Baker is especially concerned about the sports ban bill in Missouri. She says it's proposed as a constitutional amendment, so if it's passed by lawmakers, it would go before voters.

"We would have to endure a campaign across the state that essentially says, 'We don't want folks who may be different than us on our team,' and I don't think that is a value that Missouri holds," says Baker. "It could put teens and kids at risk of seeing their dignity questioned, every single day."

Baker contends that most Missourians want policies that improve equality - specifically the Missouri Nondiscrimination Act, known as "MONA," - which has been introduced every year for more than two decades.

Baker says it would protect residents from discrimination based on their inherent characteristics of gender identity and sexual orientation.

"When you can't live with the full dignity of the law, your experience is much worse," says Baker. "You are facing discrimination on a daily basis and you're already a part of a marginalized community. And so, Missourians need to be proactive and say that, 'Equality for all means equality for all,' and pass MONA."

The Movement Advancement project ranks the status of LGBTQ equality in Missouri as 'low.'

Mary Schuermann Kuhlman, Public News Service - MO