Senate committee hears testimony for bill that would make discrimination based on sexual orientation illegal
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Senate committee hears testimony for bill that would make discrimination based on sexual orientation illegal

Date: February 18, 2015
By: Jill Ornitz
State Capitol Bureau
Links: SB 237

JEFFERSON CITY -  Discrimination based on sexual orientation and identity would be illegal in Missouri if a bill makes it through the General Assembly.

The Missouri Non-Discrimination Act, or MONA, does not have provisions making it illegal for housing providers, employers or businesses in the state to refuse services to an individual based on their sexual orientation and identity.

Debbie Jackson, a self-identified conservative, told the Senate Progress and Development Committee the issue would not be something she thought about if it wasn't for her child.

"When my child became increasingly depressed, was acting out and eventually became suicidal at the age of four, my perspective on a lot of things changed," she said. "You see, my child is transgender, and coming from such a long-standing conservative background, I never would have believed it was possible if I hadn't seen her distress first-hand, right in my own home."

Jackson told the committee being LGBT is not a choice, but a part of a someone's identity.

Committee chair and the bill's sponsor Sen. Joseph Keaveny, D-St. Louis City, asked the committee how discrimination is still permissible in 2015. He also said his kids cannot believe he's still fighting for this legislation in this day and age. Additional supporters of the bill include Monsanto, St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and Attorney General Chris Koster.

Opponents told the committee the bill puts the rights of the LGBT community at odds with the right to religious freedom.

"With regard to people that run small businesses, in particular, those that practice in the wedding industry, I guess the question I would ask the committee is, is there a way to respect the rights of those in the LGBT community and also respect the rights of those, who for religious conviction reasons, cannot lend their artistic talents to a wedding ceremony for a gay couple?" said Lobbyist for the Missouri Catholic Council Tyler McClay. 

Other opponents include the Missouri Chamber of Commerce, Missouri Family Network and the Associated Industries of Missouri.

Keaveny said the committee will likely vote on the bill next week. 

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