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Homosexual Acts a Crime in Missouri

February 29, 1996
By: Claudia Gabarain
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Sexual activity between people of the same gender would be decriminalized in Missouri under legislation presented to the House Civil and Criminal Law Committee this week.

The bill, presented by Rep. Tim Van Zandt, D-Kansas City, would change the state's current law which makes sexual contact between partners of the same gender a misdemeanor offense.

The law, according to witnesses, sends a message that homosexuals are undesirable. And they, argue, the law is not being enforced anyway.

"What they (gays and lesbians) do in the privacy of their homes is their business and nobody else's," Van Zandt said.

Rev. Marcia Fleishman, from the Southern Baptist Church testified in favor of the bill saying there's a need to remove the prejudice maintained by keeping this kind of conduct a crime. "Who's fighting to maintain that?," she asked.

Missouri legislature has, occasionally over the years, debated the issue - but lawmakers consistently have rejected the idea of decriminalizing homosexual activity -- either by voting it down or letting the issue die from lack of action.

But this year, nobody testified against the measure during the House committee hearing - a development that the bill's co-sponsor, Rep. Nancy Farmer, D-St Louis, interpreted as a good sign. "This was my dream. We are really encouraged by the hearing."

Jeff Wunrow, executive director of the Privacy Rights Education Project, said the reason the bill has not been passed yet is education. "There's a lot of people who just have a knee jerk reaction against it."