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LGBTQ Rights Advocates In Kansas And Missouri Want Landmark Gains To Extend Beyond Employment Protections

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When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that it was illegal to fire an employee for being gay or transgender, LGBTQ activists in Missouri and Kansas were gratified to see these long-sought protections come at the national level, but say there's still work to be done.

Reaction to Monday’s Supreme Court ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, was swift from local and statewide activists.

Stephen Eisele, executive director of PROMO, Missouri’s statewide LGBTQ advocacy organization, says the 6-3 ruling is a major step forward for the community.

“We’ve been trying for 22 consecutive years to get MONA, or the Missouri Non-discrimination Act passed by the Missouri lawmakers,” he says. “Today’s decision is a huge step forward.”

Monday’s decision provides protection only from employment discrimination. Missouri’s non-discrimination law would also extend to protection from discrimination in housing and public acommodations.

Eisele says PROMO will continue to advocate for these rights.

“Today’s decision is a good first step,” he says. “But we will continue to work on seeing members of the LGBT community in Missouri are able to live where they want to live and shop where they want to shop.”

Terry Cushman, chair of the Kansas City chapter of Equality Kansas, shared similar joy in response to today’s ruling.

“Elation is one word I would use,” he said.

“Some of us feel this is more important than the decision to allow the right for same-sex marriage, because it deals with our livelihood, stable and secure employment,” he said.

Cushman went on to say the community was glad for this controversy to be removed from the political winds of state and local governments and to become the law of the land.

“We’re grateful to now have this issue on the national stage.”

While this was a landmark decision, Cushman said the LGBTQ community in Kansas is also still subject to discrimination in housing, eduction and public accommodation.

He said Equality Kansas will double down on its efforts not only to pass a state-wide anti-discrimination law, but also to work with the Congressional delegation to pass the United States Equality Act, which, if passed, would amend the Civil Rights Act to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in housing, public accommodations and education, among other things.

Monday’s majority opinion was written by Justice Neil Gorsuch, who, as a conservative and appointee of President Trump, would not ordinarily be expected to rule in concert with liberal judges Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Sonia Sotomayor.

PROMO’s Stephen Eisele says Gorsuch’s name above the majority opinion is important.

“This should send a clear message that Missouri is out of step with most of the country in its thinking about employment protection [for LGBTQ people.]”

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