2023 Legislative Session Recap
The good, the bad, and everything in-between
Just like you, we have been taking some time to digest and release the tension built up in us and in our community over the past six months of legislative session. Out of the 2,323 bills filled this session, more than 50 were direct threats to the rights and dignity of LGBTQ+ Missourians — and while not specifically targeting the LGBTQ+ community, the majority of the others filed still attacked our broader human rights and dignity as Missourians. Session ended in a flurry of chaotic activity in the House and long days of no activity in the Senate, resulting in only 57 bills total heading to the governor’s desk.
We did lose a battle in the fight to protect the rights of transgender youth and adults, but the fact that only two bills made it through the General Assembly speaks to the power of our community. We are tremendously proud of the work done in reducing the harmful outcomes and effects of the two bills that did pass, the work you all helped to do in defeating the rest of the attacks on our civil rights, and the power of our coalition to pass a handful of bills supporting more equality and visibility for LGBTQ+ Missourians.
With your help, the advocacy of 70+ different organizations, and our coalition partners, hundreds of attacks on our human rights failed.
It can be hard to see any positives when our rights are under attack, particularly this session when the waves of discrimination and oppression continuously happened every week. However, there are some positive outcomes we wanted to uplift:
- No bills passed that could restrict transgender Missourians being able to make changes to their birth certificates or driver’s licenses.
- No bills passed banning drag performance
- No bills passed that would criminalize parents for seeking healthcare in the best interest of their children.
- No anti-education reform bills or bills containing anti-critical race theory (CRT) passed. This includes bills we fought tirelessly against that wanted school curriculum to include “Don’t Say Gay” and would have forced LGBTQ+ students to be outed to families if they vocalized their identities to teachers or school personnel.
- No bills passed that would have made it permissible for college student groups to discriminate against students whose identities don’t align with the group’s sincerely held beliefs, ideals, and religious practices.
- No changes to the initiative petition process passed, the only process in our state where residents can bring an issue to the ballot box.
- SB75 Passed (an Omnibus State Retirement Bill): Included in this bill is a provision that gives people who were in “same-sex partnerships” prior to 2015 the right to change their beneficiary or payment program in the same way legally married people can. Prior to now, retired same-sex domestic partners were not entitled to share beneficiary benefits with their partners, even though heterosexual domestic partners could. Closing this gap is one of the critical equalities all LGBTQ+ Missourians deserve.
- SB127 (Memorial Naming Bill): Includes a Tom Hannegan memorial highway in St. Charles County. Late Representative Tom Hannegan was a dear friend to PROMO, an out gay Representative, and worked tirelessly within his party to pass the Missouri Non-Discrimination Act (MONA) and educate his colleagues on equalities our entire community deserves.
FUTURE EQUALITY EXPANSION
Four omnibus bills (multiple bills with similar topics all rolled into one large bill) passed this legislative session, and both of these give us the opportunity to advocate for more expansive and comprehensive equality in the near future.
- HB447 – Omnibus Education Bill: Adds a requirement for a “Health and Family” curriculum for all public schools. This requirement will be added to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s curriculum approval and building process. Part of their process allows for public weigh in, and it will be very important that our community add comments that express curriculum needs critical to our community and youth. We’ll know more about this process in August, and will have an action for you to weigh in.
- HB115, SB45, and SB157- Omnibus Health Bills: All contain provisions relating to pharmacists having ability to provide vaccinations. We worked to allow smallpox and m-pox vaccinations to fall under this list of vaccines accessible through pharmacy distribution, yet since the FDA does not require these vaccinations, they’re still excluded. We hope to change this in future years and make more vaccinations accessible to our community.
BILLS SIGNED INTO LAW
Earlier this week on Wednesday, Governor Parson signed into law two anti-trans bills: Senate Bill 39 and 49. Neither bills have an emergency clause meaning these will go into effect on August 28, 2023. We knew this was coming, but it doesn’t make it any easier for us as a community. Know that we are exploring every option with our partners to see how we can fight back and read our statement below to our call to action for all Missourians.
It’s also important to us that you understand the real restrictions of these bills, as there are many similar bills passing legislatures in this country. Here is a breakdown of what these laws do and what they don’t do:
Senate Bill 49
What It Does:
- It bans gender affirming surgery for minors under the age of 18.
- It bans access to gender-affirming healthcare for minors who are NOT already on a prescribed path for healthcare. Thus, any minor currently receiving either puberty blockers or hormone replacement therapy will be able to legally continue care.
- Any restriction of medicine access for minors will sunset (will end) after four years from the date this law goes into effect meaning August 28, 2027.
- Medicaid will no longer be able to cover gender-affirming healthcare for children or adults.
- People who are incarcerated will no longer have access to surgical gender-affirming healthcare while they are in state custody.
What It Keeps Legal & Safe:
- No transgender youth will lose the healthcare they are already being provided.
- There is no ban or punishment for any physician, mental health practitioner, or healthcare provider who makes referrals for gender-affirming healthcare out of our state or through tele-health.
- There is no ban on accessing gender-affirming healthcare via tele-health.
- There is no ban on mental healthcare access related to gender-affirming health care
- The Attorney General cannot bring lawsuits against practitioners or institutions who provide gender-affirming healthcare or make referrals for that care.
- There is no ban on insurance (with the exception of Medicaid) to cover gender-affirming healthcare.
- There are no penalties or criminal implications of activity for parents who seek and provide gender-affirming care for their children.
- Physicians, endocrinologists, and practitioners will not be held accountable for costs associated to patients who sought gender-affirming healthcare and choose at a later date to stop.
Senate Bill 39
What It Does:
- This bill bans all transgender student athletes from kindergarten through college from being able to play sports on sanctioned school teams that align with their gender identity.
- This bill applies to students in public, private, and charter schools.
- This bill applies to schools who participate in competition against another team who has a transgender athlete competing.
- This bill sunsets (will end) after four years from the date it goes into effect.
- If schools violate this law, they face losing 100% of their state public funding.
What It Keeps Legal & Safe:
- SB 39 does not apply to clubs or sports teams not associated or funded by schools
WHAT WE ARE WATCHING
As I mentioned at the beginning, only 57 bills in total were sent to the governor’s desk for his signature this year meaning many necessary bills and, conversely, harmful bills didn’t make it through. Here is a list of the items we are keeping our eyes on for next year:
- The Missouri Non-Discrimination Act (MONA) was filed and only given a public hearing in a Senate Committee. The same is true for a bill filed by Rep. Chris Sander to add a fix to the Constitution that would permanently allow non-heterosexual marriage in Missouri.
- We saw bills that would prohibit the state from doing business with any company that has a DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) statement or that required DEI training. Those bills had varying levels of success, but none came close to passing.
- The budget had anti-diversity language added to it in the House, but Senators Hough, Rowden, and O’Laughlin refused to let the language pass in the Senate. They were ultimately able to omit it.
- Bills that would allow student organizations to have discriminatory clauses in their bylaws failed this year, as did bills to prohibit DEI training or statements in higher education. We expect these topics to be at the forefront of the 2024 legislative session, and are doing as much research and work as possible to prepare to fight them aggressively next year.
Both Senate Bills 39 and 49 were signed by the governor earlier this week. Parson will continue to go through the remaining bills to decide if he will sign or veto. The budget bills are the only items in which he can veto a single provision instead of having to take or leave the bill as it was passed. He has until July 15 to make those decisions and, if he doesn’t sign or veto the bill, the bill becomes law. Most bills become effective on August 28, but a few provisions have an emergency clause that will cause them to be effective upon the signature of the governor.
Legislators will return on September 13 for a veto session. They are required under the Constitution to return during that week regardless of whether the governor has vetoed any bills. There will also be a variety of fundraisers and other receptions during the week. We will send around a list of those events as they are scheduled.
Legislative filing for 2024 begins on December 1, 2023. Legislators will be spending the next few months hosting in-district meetings and deciding what their 2024 priorities will be. Now is the time to build relationships and support when people are not in a rush or feeling under pressure in the crunch of the legislative session. Keep an eye out for updates as we pick up news and talk to legislators over the interim. If you have any questions about the legislation that passed in 2023, please feel free to reach out. We are happy to help.
Shira Berkowitz (they/them)
Sr. Director of Public Policy and Advocacy