I’m excited to be writing about the beginning of the new session. You will still hear from A.J., and now some of your Jeff City updates will also come from me, Kyle. The 2015 legislative session commenced with the usual celebrations and pomp and circumstance that marks another year PROMO will be working to make the lives of LGBT Missourians fairer. The past election brought many new faces to the legislature with four new members of the Senate and 43 new members in the House.
This year, our biggest challenge is going to be, “moving the mountain.” That “mountain,” of course, is the House of Representatives. We have quite the endeavor ahead of us. It is not insurmountable, however. We have many allies on both sides of the aisle that are steadfast on making sure the Missouri Nondiscrimination Act (MONA) becomes law this year, as well as new folks to meet and educate about these critical protections.
We are also starting this legislative session with a larger tool belt than in previous years. As of today, we have more than 630 Missouri businesses that believe a person’s sexual orientation and gender identity shouldn’t be a factor in employment, housing and accessing public services. Our goal is to reach 1,000 businesses, so we can send a clear message that protecting LGBT Missourians is good for business and good for Missouri. If you know a business that supports equality, encourage them to visit MoWorkplaceEquality.com and MoEqualityBiz.com to show their support. And if you see a business featured on MoEqualityBiz.com, make sure to thank them for their support when you visit them.
In addition to the support of the business community, we have two incredible legislators championing our efforts on MONA. A leader recognized for passing more bills than most Republicans, Senator Keaveny, is our MONA sponsor in the Senate, and a long time champion of nondiscrimination efforts, Rep. Stephen Webber, is our sponsor in the house again. We are so grateful for their leadership.
But it wouldn’t be the beginning of session without the filing of something anti-LGBT. Rep. Haahr and Sen. Schaefer introduced bills that would prohibit universities from denying student organizations all of the same privileges and recognitions based on the group’s religious beliefs -- even if those religious beliefs included things like anti-LGBT codes of conduct or prohibitions on LGBT students holding positions of leadership. Read more about the bill, its implications, and PROMO’s statement here. Schools and universities, more than almost anywhere else, should be environments for opportunity and success for ALL students, that includes students of faith and LGBT students -- many of whom are both LGBT and people of faith.
Through all of session, the most powerful tool in our belt, however, is you! On February 17th, PROMO will lead hundreds of your friends and neighbors to the Capitol to ask the legislature to “Show Me Fairness.” Please do not miss this opportunity to help us climb this mountain. You can sign up and learn more about Equality Day at the Capitol here.
This is the start of our regular legislative updates and I am excited to continue this conversation with you over the next four months.