In a year when President Barack Obama made history just for saying the word "transgender" in the State of the Union, Governor Jay Nixon made no mention of LGBT issues in Wednesday's State of the State address.
That's a change from last year, when Nixon specifically called on the Missouri Legislature to pass the Missouri Nondiscrimination Act, which protects LGBT people from being fired, evicted or refused service due to their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.
"We need to end discrimination against LGBT Missourians in the workplace," Nixon said during last year's State of the State speech. "No Missourian should be fired because of who they are or who they love. Last year, the Missouri Nondiscrimination Act passed the Senate with bipartisan support but failed to get to my desk. Let's get it done this year."
The legislature did not "get it done." Time ran out before the House voted, leaving LGBT Missourians without legal protection in workplace or housing.
Update, 2:30 p.m.: Nixon's office responded with this statement:
Over the last year, the Governor has continued to express his support for a non-discrimination bill that includes a LGBT provision, so his position is fairly well-known and has not changed from when he initially addressed it. It's just that in the time and topic constraints of the State of the State address, there are challenges in bringing up as many issues as we would like.
"Most people are shocked to hear that in this day in age, in this America, in our state, you can still be fired for being gay or transgender," says Kyle Piccola, senior field organizer for Missouri LGBT organization PROMO. "Obviously, we were hoping for him to mention (the Missouri Nondiscrimination Act) again, so we were a little disappointed."
Efforts to pass the Missouri Nondiscrimination Act are already underway. Missouri Senator and Minority Floor Leader Joseph Keaveny filed Senate Bill 237, which would expand legal protections to include LGBT people, with support from St. Louis-area senators Jamilah Nasheed, Maria Chappelle-Nadal and Jill Schupp.
But the real question is whether the nondiscrimination act can pass the House. Representative Stephen Webber, a Democrat from Boone County, got things started by filing House Bill 407.
Neither bill has yet been assigned to a legislative committee, the next step towards becoming law.
Passing a nondiscrimination bill is uniquely urgent for LGBT Missourians this year, the first legislative session after a circuit judge ruled that Missouri's ten-year-old ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional. Gay couples can now marry in St. Louis County, city and Jackson County, but without legal protections, newly-married couples open themselves up to new risks when they report their marital status to their employers, landlords or other businesses.
On Wednesday, Piccola says PROMO got a call from a gay couple who was rejected by their longtime tax services company because they got married.
"They (the couple) just wanted to know what the laws were, and unfortunately we had to tell them that it was completely legal for (the company) to deny that service based on their sexual orientation," Piccola says.
On second thought, Piccola says, maybe it's a good thing Nixon didn't mention the Missouri Nondiscrimination Act during his speech to the contrarian legislature. After all, "the House and Senate try to do everything he doesn't want to do," Piccola says.
Here's the full text of the 2015 State of the State address.
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