Gearing Up for More Fights

Before we celebrate Pride month in June, we face more fighting for our LGBT rights in Missouri, Kansas and nationwide.
On the national level, the January decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to hear arguments in favor of same-sex marriage means that we could see a decision in that case by June, if not sooner.
On March 5, the Mid-America Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce sent a letter of support for marriage equality to Washington. Here is the letter:
The Mid-America Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce has joined the brief filed today in the Supreme Court of the United States supporting Marriage Equality. Mid-America GLCC proudly joins over 340 other employer organizations in this brief arguing that the existing confused legal landscape places significant burdens on employers and their employees — making it increasingly hard to conduct business.
In June, the court will likely decide definitively whether states must allow same-sex couples to marry and whether states must recognize the marriages of same-sex couples who wed elsewhere.
“The patchwork of inconsistent state marriage laws makes it harder and more costly for employers to recruit and retain talented employees, and to administer benefits systems,” stated Dan Nilsen, Board President of Mid-America GLCC. “Quite simply, this burdens businesses by costing them both time and money.”
The brief will explain to the Supreme Court how employers are encumbered by the inability of certain employees to marry the spouse of their choice and by the current patchwork of state laws applicable to same-sex marriage.
Those burdens include:
• Recruiting/retention challenges in those jurisdictions that do not have marriage equality;
• Corporate administrative and financial burdens;
• Lack of certainty and business uniformity; and
Requiring employers and HR departments to implement government-mandated regulations that undermine the corporate mission.
The Mid-America GLCC is an organization that advocates and promotes the success of the LGBT business community and their allies through the guiding principles of equality, inclusion, economics and education. The Mid-America GLCC’s purpose is to create, identify and enhance business opportunities for LGBT and LGBT-friendly organizations, thereby fostering a more inclusive and vibrant economy in Mid-America. More than 250 corporations, small businesses and nonprofit organizations have joined the Mid-America GLCC since their inception in May of 2012. For more information, visit maglcc.org.

‘Anti-gay backlash backlash’
In a story published March 23 by the Daily Beast, staff writer Jay Michaelson states: “The anti-gay backlash backlash is here.” The article says that religious extremists are trying to advance legislation allowing discrimination against the LGBT community based on religious freedom, but that the idea is not meeting with favor in many state legislatures.
He writes about how an Oklahoma Religious Freedom Act died in the state House after what he calls a brilliant move by Democrat Rep. Emily Virgin. She added provisions that if the bill passed, businesses that would allow discrimination toward LGBT people or others would have to post notifications on their doors and websites citing their policies and essentially shaming them in front of potential LGBT, black, Jewish and other customers. Michaelson compared that to the practice during the Jim Crow era of establishments posting signs reading “Whites Only.”
PROMO, Missouri’s statewide group fighting for LGBT rights, reports that there has been a wave of anti-LGBT bills filed in 26 states, with a record 20 anti-LGBT bills filed in Texas alone.
8 anti-LGBT bills filed in Missouri
In Missouri, PROMO says, eight anti-LGBT bills have been filed by legislators, many in the name of so-called religious freedom:
1-3. HB 104 (Rep. Haahr), SB 248 (Sen. Schaefer), SB 311 (Sen. Emery): Would allow student organizations with “sincerely held religious beliefs” to discriminate in membership of the group without penalty from the associated university.

HB 104 forces universities to fund discriminatory organizations on campus and exempts religious organizations from nondiscrimination policies. This bill is the furthest along of them. After its third reading in the House on March 19, it moved on to the Senate for consideration.
4-5. SB 555 (Sen. Emery), HB 1107 (Rep. Moon): Would make it illegal for public employees to issue or partake in issuing a marriage license to a same-sex couple. PROMO has sent Sen. Ed Emery 228 reasons (via Missourians all across the state) why SB 555 is harmful to LGBT couples and their children.
6. HB 1337 (Rep. Pogue): Allows a person authorized to solemnize marriages to refuse to solemnize a marriage which is contrary to the religious beliefs or sincerely held moral convictions of such person.
7. HB 1338 (Rep. Pogue): Requires all public restrooms, other than single-occupancy restrooms, to be gender-divided restrooms.
8. HB 1339 (Rep. 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.
A.J. Bockelman, PROMO executive director, concluded: “With all the advancement on marriage, bills trying to continue marginalization of the LGBT community are expected. Opponents are lashing out, desperate for any attempt to stop progress. It’s like the last dying breath of a wounded animal. But make no mistake, justice and equality will prevail. ”
PROMO is hosting its annual Equality Day on April 22 at the state Capitol in Jefferson City. You can find more information on this event and the bus trips available from St. Louis, Springfield and Kansas City that day in the CampBiz column on page 19 of the April print issue.
It’s important to put faces to our protests of these bills. Show up at Equality Day or contact the sponsors of these bills to let them know that you won’t stand for this discriminatory legislation.

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