With the 2015 legislative session drawing to a close, Missouri legislators are considering bills with language targeting the state’s LGBT citizens.
The Missouri-based LGBT organization Promoting Equality for All Missourians (PROMO) identified eight bills with “anti-LGBT” language.
Missouri Representative Elijah Haahr, Senator Kurt Schaefer and Senator Ed Emery introduced the bills HB 104, SB 248, and SB 311, respectively. The bills would allow student organizations with “sincerely held religious beliefs” to discriminate in their membership without penalty from the university.
HB 104, titled the Student Freedom of Association Act, would require universities to fund organizations with discriminatory policies, as well as give exemptions to religious organizations from nondiscrimination policies.
The description of SB 248 claims that it protects religious students by “[prohibiting] public higher education institutions from denying religious student associations benefits available to other student associations and from discriminating against them.”
Similarly, SB 311 says that it “Prohibits public higher education institutions from denying religious student associations benefits available to other student associations.” Since being introduced, the two bills have been combined.
SB 555 and HB 1107, introduced by Sen. Emery and Rep. Mike Moon respectively, would make it illegal for public employees to issue or partake in issuing a marriage license to a same-sex couple.
SB 555 also prohibits any taxpayer funds or salaries of local government employees from being used in “an activity that includes the licensing or support of a marriage other than a marriage between a man and a woman.” An employee who violates this measure will be terminated and lose “any salary, employee benefits, or retirement benefits.”
In the fall of 2014, Missouri Judge Rex Burlison overturned Missouri’s ban on gay marriage, effectively legalizing gay marriage in Missouri. SB 555 would effectively reinstate that ban. In protest of SB 555, PROMO had families send 228 reasons why the policy would be bad for Missouri families.
The text of HB 1107 explicitly states that “it is the public policy of this state to recognize that marriage is only between a man and a woman” and that “any purported marriage not between a man and a woman is invalid.”
Representative Jeff Pogue introduced HB 1337, which would allow clergy to refuse “to solemnize a marriage if the solemnization of such marriage is contrary to [their] religious beliefs or sincerely held moral convictions.”
Also introduced by Pogue was HB 1338, requiring all restrooms, with the exemption of single occupancy restrooms to be gender-divided. HB 1338 expressly prohibits any political subdivision, business, building, or facility in Missouri with a public restroom from enacting policies in defiance with this policy.
Every new building at UMKC must have a gender-neutral bathroom, in accordance with many of the university’s efforts toward diversity and inclusion. HB 1338 would prohibit UMKC from instituting such policies.
HB 1339, the third bill introduced by Pogue, “prohibits the appropriation or expenditure of state revenues for the purpose of creating a gender-neutral environment, unless required by a federal or state court order.”
Coming on the heels of the controversial Indiana Religious Freedom Act, Missouri may join the Hoosier State and Arkansas in passing what the Human Rights Campaign identified as “anti-LGBT” legislation.
In addition to PROMO, many other local organizations voiced their opposition to the proposed legislation, including UMKC’s own Student Government Association. In an interview with KSHB, UMKC Student Body President Juan Bettancourt-Garcia said, “We’re a state that has always wanted to bring more students in and with language like this and bills going around such as 248, it would discourage students from attending institutions in Missouri.”