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Lawmakers honor Tom Hannegan with MONA legislation during pre-filing

  

At least two House Republicans will pre-file legislation barring discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity Wednesday, taking up the mantle of the late Rep. Tom Hannegan in the lower chamber. 

The Missouri Nondiscrimination Act (MONA) has been introduced in the General Assembly for more than 20 years but has failed to gain traction. Still, it was a labor of love for Hannegan, a St. Charles Republican who passed away in October

GOP Rep. Shamed Dogan has supported MONA legislation in the past but never championed it himself. He said he decided to pre-file Hannegan’s legislation as a way to honor the legacy of his former officemate and friend. 

State Rep. Tom Hannegan championed MONA legislation throughout his tenure in the House. He passed away earlier this year. (HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS/TIM BOMMEL)

“It’s something he championed every year. His partner, Scott, has talked to lawmakers about honoring his legacy, and this is a way to do it,” Dogan said in an interview. 

Although it’s Dogan’s final year in the House, he said this bill will be one of his top priorities — yet, he expects it to change before it crosses the finish line. He said he is optimistic a compromise can be reached with colleagues who are concerned about religious liberties while still protecting individuals’ rights. 

“I think there’s a good chance we can do it given the increased support from members in our caucus, and we’re willing to sit down with people,” Dogan said. “We’ve all had conversations with our colleagues in our caucus and PROMO and our Democratic colleagues. I think there’s a lot of common ground that can be reached.” 

A copy of Dogan’s bill provided to The Missouri Times would add gender identity and sexual orientation to the list of protected classes included in the Missouri Human Rights Act. It would protect people from being denied housing, employment, or services at a bank, lending, or insurance institution because of their gender identity or sexual orientation. 

Rep. Chris Sander, a freshman Republican, said he also planned to pre-file MONA legislation. Sanders, who signed onto Hannegan’s legislation last year, said federal and state courts have upheld protections for people regardless of sexual orientation, and Missouri’s statutes should reflect those rulings. 

“Discrimination based on sexual orientation exists in the Missouri Constitution and Missouri statutes,” Sander said in a text message. “As one of the 20 most conservative members in the 101st General Assembly, I can assure you my sexual orientation is not a Republican or Democrat politics issue, it is a human issue.” 

“In order to grow Missouri and attract more business and population to our state, we must end discrimination in all forms,” Sanders said. “My goal is to be a leader on this issue for Republicans and Democrats since I am openly out about my own sexual orientation, true to myself, and not hiding who I am from voters or other members. Let’s get MONA 2022 passed for Missourians to avoid damages caused by future discrimination.

Sen. Greg Razer
Sen. Greg Razer is a vociferous champion of MONA legislation throughout his tenure in both chambers of the General Assembly. (SENATE COMMUNICATIONS)

Along with Hannegan, MONA has long been championed by Sen. Greg Razer, a Jackson County Democrat, throughout his tenure in the General Assembly. 

Razer pointed to the removal of an LGBT history exhibit from the Capitol museum earlier this year, something other legislators fought to have taken out, as a tangible example of why MONA is needed. 

“We know that discrimination still exists against LGBT people,” Razer said. “It’s not a theoretical thing anymore. We saw it happen in the building this year. It’s something that for the past several years, Rep. Hannegan and I worked together on, and in his memory, I think it would be a wonderful tribute to get this passed and done this year.” 

Razer, too, plans to pre-file MONA legislation Wednesday.