A grassroots effort is underway in Missouri to make it illegal to discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens.
According to a story in Tuesday’s (Nov. 13) St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the group Missourians for Equality is spearheading the measure and wants to get it on the ballot in 2014. The group hopes to prepare the ground with a non-discrimination measure in the city of Kirksville, then move forward with plans for a statewide non-discrimination measure.
Organizers maintain that the state’s populous will be open to the measure, rather than relying on the state legislature to pass it.
Aaron Malin, executive director for Missourians for Equality, believes that Missourians would support the measure, despite both branches of the Republican controlled state legislature gaining “veto proof” majorities in the Nov. 6 general election.
“I don’t see the state going more red,” Malin said. “The recent elections don’t indicate the state is becoming more conservative. Democrats won 4 out of 5 state offices (only losing the lieutenant governor post to incumbent Peter Kinder). We think the state is moving to the left on social issues, and we see that from the re-election of Senator Claire McCaskill. The legislature is too [far] right and there’s very little chance of MONA [The Missouri Non-discrimination Act] passing, but the populous shift gives us hope.”
But PROMO, Missouri's statewide LGBT advocacy organization, views the legislative process as the best path for LGBT inclusive non-discrimination. The group's perennial Missouri Non-discrimination Act or MONA, which would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations has enjoyed bipartisan support, hearings - but has yet to receive a floor vote.
“PROMO constantly evaluates how we can achieve a change in the Human Rights Statute," said A.J. Bockelman, executive director of PROMO. "Even though we have seen great movements in other states on marriage recently, we do not believe Missouri, a predominately red state, is capable of passing an update to include non-discrimination protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity by ballot initiative.”
Malin said to collect the 150,000 required signatures to get the initiative on the ballot, Missourians for Equality is enlisting the help of local organizers and volunteers around the state. Volunteers will be trained, and then once approval is granted from the office of the Secretary of State, the organization will go out to gather signatures.
By MATT JAMIESON – STAFF WRITER