ST. LOUIS – Last week I had the pleasure of representing SAGE Metro St. Louis in a meeting with April Ford Griffin, Director for the Civil Rights Enforcement Agency (CREA), City of St. Louis.
Mrs. Griffin and I discussed ways in which our two organizations could work in collaboration to provide education and outreach regarding LGBT nondiscrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations.
Over the past few years we have seen a number of positive policy initiatives at the local, state and federal level in regard to LGBT equality, including gender identity/expression being added to the City of St. Louis nondiscrimination policy. Additionally, this month the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) hosted the first ever LGBT Elder Housing Summit to gain a better understanding of the housing needs and barriers for our aging community members. These are great strides toward LGBT equality. However, when LGBT equality based policies are passed the real work begins for advocates and community members at the local level. Without education, reporting discrimination and enforcement, these policies are only as good as the paper they are written on.
For instance, in 2010 President Obama signed an executive order requiring Medicare and Medicaid funded hospitals to ensure the visitation rights of LGBT patients. A story recently broke detailing how a hospital in Tennessee had denied these very visitation rights to a lesbian couple. http://www.bilerico.com/2011/12/lesbian_partner_denied_hospital_visitation.php
Upon reading this story, I knew this newly developing relationship with the CREA was essential to ensure the rights of LGBT community members living and receiving services in the City of St. Louis.
Mrs. Griffin shared the following information to provide a better understanding of the role played by her department in regard to discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity/expression in the City of St. Louis.
The St. Louis Civil Rights Enforcement Agency (CREA) is charged with the administration and enforcement of St. Louis City Ordinance 67119 as amended, prohibiting discrimination in housing and real property transactions, employment, education, city services, and public accommodations. CREA serves individuals who believe they have been unlawfully treated based upon race, color, religion, sex age (40 and above), disability, familial status (housing and public accommodations), sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin or ancestry, legal source of income and retaliation for having pursued a complaint .
When complaints of discrimination are filed with CREA the complaints are assigned to an investigator for investigation. The investigation seeks to determine whether the act(s) giving rise to the complaint occurred because of a prohibited reason as cited above. Where evidence supports the allegations of discrimination, CREA first seeks to resolve all the issues through conciliation prior to the utilization of administrative hearings and/or litigation within the judicial system.
CREA is committed to providing pertinent information to federal agencies (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) interested in funding local initiatives to reduce discrimination suffered by the LGBT community. Also, CREA is committed to eradicating discrimination in the St. Louis Community.
The LGBT community can assist CREA by identifying and reporting potential sexual orientation, gender identity violations. In addition, members of the LGBT community can provide us with information regarding current trends, data and other relevant information pertaining to the LGBT community.
Members of the community may reach our office at 314-622-3301 or send an email at our website (which is still being developed)
SAGE is excited to work with CREA over the coming years. We encourage you to contact CREA with any concerns of discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression in the City of St. Louis. Together we can make change!
BY: SHERRILL WAYLAND