JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Missouri Legislature is again bracing for a battle over an effort to protect the rights of the LGBT community.

Similar efforts have failed over the past two decades. Still, Democratic State Rep. Greg Razer believes his bill known as the Missouri Nondiscrimination Act would have enough support to pass this year, he told the Kansas City Star .

“LGBT people deserve the same protections that everybody else has,” Razer said. His bill would add sexual orientation and gender identity alongside things like race, gender, religion and age as protected by Missouri discrimination laws.

Rep. Tom Hannegan, a St. Charles Republican, is sponsoring a similar version of Razer’s bill. Razer and Hannegan are the only openly gay members of the Missouri Legislature.

Those measures face a challenge from Republican Rep. Mike Stephens of Bolivar, who is sponsoring a nondiscrimination bill of his own, but with one big exception: It excludes protections for gender identity.

Steph Perkins, executive director of PROMO, a is optimistic this is the year a nondiscrimination bill passes, but “vehemently” opposes Stephens’ bill.

“Safety and privacy is important to all of us, including in places like restrooms and locker rooms,” Perkins said. “We already have laws in place that make it illegal for people to harm or harass others or invade their privacy. And anyone who does that can and should be prosecuted.”

A 2015 Supreme Court ruling allows gay and lesbian couples to marry. But under Missouri law, a person can still be fired, denied housing or kicked out of a restaurant for being, or even for being perceived as, gay or transgender.

Some local governments are taking matters into their own hands. Jackson and St. Louis counties and a dozen cities — Kansas City, St. Louis, Clayton, Columbia, Creve Coeur, Ferguson, Kirksville, Kirkwood, Maplewood, Olivette, Richmond Heights and University City — have ordinances that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

But Perkins said a statewide law is needed because it “protects LGBT people in every single district all across the state.”


Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com