Michael Sam Puts Spotlight on Missouri's LGBT Laws
While the state of Missouri celebrates that one of its most recent college football stars, Michael Sam, will remain in The Show Me State with the St. Louis Rams, his high-profile job may be a galvanizing force for securing LGBT rights in Missouri.
Sam, who will report to the team in July for training, may become a symbol for efforts to overturn Missouri's laws on marriage equality, or address its workplace antidiscrimination protections, and other LGBT rights issues, according to USA Today.
The state's current nondiscrimination act currently does not include protections for LGBT workers, according to the statewide equality organization, PROMO. The Missouri Nondiscrimination Act, or MONA, is up for consideration, and would extend the existing law to prohibit employment, housing, and public accommodation discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The bill was the subject of a public hearing in March, but has yet to pass.
Dara Strickland, an attorney and the board president of the LGBT Community Center in St. Louis, said a gay person can apply for jobs in the state, but there "there's no protection for bwing asked, 'By the way, are you gay?' and being explicitly told, 'You know, we don't hire gay people.'"
As far as marriage equality, the state has had a constitutional ban on the books since 2004. In February, the ACLU and PROMO filed a lawsuit challenging the ban on behalf of eight same-sex couples.
According to the Human Rights Campaign, Missouri also lacks LGBT protections for housing, public accommodations, and has limited protections against bullying for LGBT students. The state does address hate crimes on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.