JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — It might seem strange that same-sex couples are given the right to marry in parts of Missouri but they still are not protected from being fired or discriminated against in the workplace.
Sen. Joe Keaveny filed the Missouri Nondiscrimination Act (MONA) early this week. The bill would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the workplace, and simply add lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender to the existing Missouri Human Rights Statute.
Rep. Steve McLuckie first introduced this legislation in 1998. MONA was passed in the senate in 2013, but the legislative session ended before the House could vote. The bill has nearly made it to Gov. Jay Nixon’s desk several times in the past three years, and Keaveny is certainly making it a priority for 2015. This is the first year he is the lead sponsor of the bill, but has co-sponsored MONA for the past several years. In 2014 Rep. Kevin Engler sponsored the bill in the House.
“I’m optimistic,” Keaveny said. “This topic is ripe now.”
He explained how the political climate for this issue has changed drastically leading up to this session, and now is the right time to make these changes. The state of Missouri has been just one state at the center of a legal challenge to its same-sex marriage prohibition. With lawsuits in St. Louis and Kansas City both potentially poised to knock down the state’s ban altogether, the political winds may shift enough to lend support to MONA.
While some people may not agree with same-sex marriage, Keaveny said most understand that all people deserve to be able to work and make a living for themselves.
“Why should we allow a business to discriminate against an employee for his sexual preference,” Keaveny said.
He has the support of over 500 businesses across the state as well as 71% of all small businesses. The Missouri Chamber of Commerce, however, opposes MONA in an effort to avoid more lawsuits against businesses. He predicts that if the bill is passed it will get through by itself, not attached to any other bills. Keaveny is confident that MONA will make it out of committee and to the floor of the House.
“I know there will be minds I will have to change but I look forward to having a robust discussion,” said Keaveny.