A Fresh Perspective on Gaining LGBT Rights in Missouri

If someone back in Colorado had told me I would be living and working in Kansas City, Mo., come the New Year, I never would have believed them. To make a long story short, here I am now, living and breathing Kansas City, and I have to tell you, it’s wonderful.

Since I’ve moved to Missouri and started work at PROMO, Missouri’s advocacy organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights, I’ve been excited to begin exploring what Kansas City has to offer. So far I have found Kansas City to be beautiful, charming and motivated, and that’s a direct attribute of its people. That really excites me for the work PROMO will be doing in 2014.

As I was flying to my new home after visiting family for the holidays, the magnitude of PROMO’s work in Kansas City really sank in for me. From 30,000 feet in the air, you get a unique perspective of New Year’s, while praying that the pilot isn’t also counting down with an overpriced glass of champagne.

I toasted and kissed my partner, as other passengers did with their loved ones, and searched out the window for any signs of midnight. I didn’t see streets and houses, large cities or skyscrapers, or even big lights and fireworks. Pressing my forehead harder against the glass, I saw a big world, all celebrating the promise of a new year. It hit home for me how important Kansas City is in the bigger picture of equality. Although we are proud to refer to ourselves as Missouri’s “better” and laid-back premier city, we play a huge role in moving equality forward for all of Missouri.

So what does equality look like in 2014?

First, let me re-introduce you to MONA. She’s not just a pretty lady — she is what is going to protect you from being fired at work. The Missouri Nondiscrimination Act, or MONA, will add sexual orientation and gender identity to the Missouri Human Rights Statute, which protects against discrimination. Right now, you can still be fired, refused housing and denied accommodation just for being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender in Missouri. PROMO and our coalition partners have worked hard to pass these basic protections in areas like Kansas City, Columbia, St. Louis and 13 other municipalities; however, our neighboring communities, like Independence, Blue Springs, St. Joseph and Lee’s Summit, are still at risk for discrimination.

The business community has paved the way, bringing fairness and acceptance into the workplace. Business owners who believe diversity is good for their bottom line can visit www.MOWorkplaceEquality.com to show their support for MONA.

Equal access to affordable and quality health care is also a top priority for PROMO. LGBT individuals face significantly greater barriers to good health and appropriate care than our straight allies do. Stress and trauma caused by stigma, not feeling like we can be ourselves in public and at work, and fear of rejection are all factors in why the LGBT community is almost twice as likely not to have health coverage and delay seeking care when needed. Not only do we deserve legal equality, but we also deserve to be as physically, emotionally and mentally healthy as everyone else. PROMO sees opportunities for schools, businesses and the government to implement systems that support better health and care for LGBT Missourians.

Finally, that brings me to the big question of the year. Will you marry me? My answer is yes, but let’s not move too fast. We’ve only just met! PROMO will be rolling out more on marriage equality and our efforts to see it become a reality right here in the Show Me State. If you’re willing, we would love to hear your love stories. Let us know what marriage equality would mean to you and your loved one at PROMO@PROMOonline.org.

Basic protections, health care and marriage are only a portion of the work PROMO is conducting on behalf of LGBT Missourians. Visit us at www.PROMOonline.org to learn more and get involved. Meet me at PROMO’s Equality Day in Jefferson City on Feb. 19. We need you and your voice to be a part of making Kansas City, and Missouri as a whole, an even prouder place to call home.

Kyle Piccola is the senior field organizer in Kansas City for PROMO.

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