Gay activists: Marriage secondary to basic rights

Thursday, July 30, 2009 | 6:24 p.m. CDT; updated 6:47 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 30, 2009

CLAYTON — Gay marriage and gays in the military may dominate the headlines, but activists in many states say their fight is much more fundamental: basic rights and protections against discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodation, even to overturn a ban on changing gender on a driver's license or birth certificate.

"In Missouri, you can still be fired for being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender," A.J. Bockelman, executive director of PROMO, Missouri's statewide organization advocating for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality, said Thursday. "Sexual orientation is not a protected class in Missouri."

A spokeswoman for the Missouri Commission on Human Rights confirmed that is the case, saying past efforts to include sexual orientation as a protected class have failed.

Activists from state-based lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy organizations throughout the U.S. are meeting here this week to share their efforts to make inroads in state legislatures, municipalities and school districts.

Toni Broaddus, executive director of their national alliance, the Equality Federation, said gay marriage has never been the movement's No. 1 priority. Rather, it's about the ability to work, get housing, adopt children, have families and have their partners recognized, she said.

"We just want the rights that everyone else has," she said. "This is about being equal citizens under the law."

At a get-acquainted session Thursday, dozens of activists provided updates on progress and setbacks in the states.

In Tennessee, transgender activist Marisa Richmond said advocates are working to pass a hate crimes law that would include lesbians, gays, bisexuals and the transgenders under its protection.

In recent weeks, she said, they won a commitment from Memphis-based Federal Express to add gender identity to its nondiscrimination policy.

Wisconsin passed new domestic partnership protections this summer that the Wisconsin Family Action recently challenged in the state Supreme Court, saying the new registry for same-sex couples violates the state constitution's ban on gay marriage and civil unions.

In Oklahoma, a group formed recently to fight what Oklahoma State University professor Laura Belmonte called "an intensely hostile environment" where only one small municipality has an anti-discrimination law.

"People ask me why I stay, but I say, 'It doesn't have to be this way,'" she said. "You can put your head in the oven and blow out the pilot light, or you can fight back."

Last year, gay and lesbian groups demanded Oklahoma state legislator Sally Kern apologize after she told a political group that "the homosexual agenda" poses a bigger threat to the United States than terrorism.

Kern said by phone Thursday that gays and lesbians want "approval for their behavior."

"What are we going to approve next, adultery?" she asked.

The Equality Federation's Broaddus said the top priorities for gay-rights activists at the state level are passage of new anti-discrimination laws or strengthening of existing ones; passage of anti-bullying laws that address sexual orientation or gender identity and expression, and recognition of their relationships, whether in marriage, civil unions or a domestic partnership registry.

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Ray Shapiro July 30, 2009 | 10:27 p.m.

("Sexual orientation is not a protected class in Missouri.")
What exactly do you want to be protected from and why?
Should sexual orientation even be considered a "class?"
Am I still allowed to believe and advocate that homosexuality is not a prefered lifestyle for a "healthy" society? Gee, when that's out-lawed, at least I won't be called a homophobe anymore. I'll just be legally required to conduct myself as if I approve of sexual acts against nature.
Homosexuality is not equal to Heterosexuality in nature.
Why approve unnatural laws?
Oh yea, p-o-l-o-t-i-c-s.
Silly human beings...

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr July 31, 2009 | 3:46 a.m.

I think everyone who sports a beard should be a protected class too.

(Report Comment)
Ben Hansen August 3, 2009 | 1:04 p.m.

Columbia includes sexual orientation as a protected class under the City Ordinances, Chapter 12, Article III. Marie Glaze, the chair of the city's Human Rights Commission, said that Columbia is one of the few cities in all of Missouri that has it as a protected class next to Kansas City and St. Louis.

@Ray: >>What exactly do you want to be protected from and why?<<

The lead says, "basic rights and protections against discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodation, even to overturn a ban on changing gender on a driver's license or birth certificate."

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro August 3, 2009 | 3:13 p.m.

@Ray: >>What exactly do you want to be protected from and why?
Your question may be a typical homophobic-baiting question. However, I will answer your question at face value, even though none of my questions have been answered.
1. I'm not looking for protection. I can protect and defend myself just fine. I am concerned about a society which puts hedonism before social individualism. I am concerned about our children living in a future world where public school teachers equate homosexuality as equal to or better then heterosexuality. I am concerned for teenagers who suddenly experience hormonal changes who may be indoctrinated into the gay life-style by other advocates of homosexuality.
2. I believe that the homosexual lifestyle, in itself, is a perversion, morally, ethically and valueless to our society. Being anti-gay does not necessarily make a person homophobic. Being deemed "politically incorrect" also does not necessarily make a person's opinion wrong or less valid then those who would rather undermine religious and natural norms via political agendas.
Now, let me ask some final questions, should you care to answer...
What is meant by public accommodation and how does it differ from private accommodation? At what point does public accommodation become undue impositions on others?
How is this reconciled to appease all concerned parties?
Also, regarding...overturning a ban on changing gender on a driver's license or birth certificate."
Last time I checked the word typed on legal documents is the word SEX and not "gender." People can alter their appearances and try to pass themselves off as a different sex or participate in bi-sexual orgys, but you can't change how doctor's explain "It's a boy" or "it's a girl!"
How about instead of adding this advocated word "gender" to birth certificates, or continuing to write in male or female, (M or F), on birth certificates and drivers licenses, we just enter XX or XY to differentiate. Or, is it also "politically incorrect" to differentiate?

(Report Comment)
ryan hubbard September 13, 2009 | 4:18 p.m.

In all honesty, I can see what the homosexual community is TRYING to say. But, on the straight people's behalf, here is a few problems I can forsee in the future for your homo beliefs and your "kids". First off, look at kids that get beat up EVERYDAY for no reason. Now lets add the fact that they have 2 dads. THAT KID WILL GET MURDERED AT SCHOOL! OR HE WILL HIT A BREAKING POINT AND KILL EVERYONE! 2. Its a choice, its not the way god made you, or the way you were born. Everyone has a choice. 3. As for gays in the military, I don't believe in it. I am currently sitting in Afghanistan as I am typing this. I am a SPC in the US ARMY and don't want some guy staring at me while im trying to shower. It makes you very uncomfortable. It also cause's a stressful work environment for the people that HAVE to deploy with the person. For all you straight people out there, how would you feel knowing that you had a homosexual sleeping not even 3 feet away from you? We sure as hell in the service dont want that. It causes morale to drop and murders will increase. You need to understand that this isn't the old days where people get along with almost anyone. This is the new world where you can get killed any second for any reason. You guys want equal rights, I understand that. I'm not trying to be a @$$hole. I'm just saying, you have to understand that there are SEVERE penalties that you will have to pay, and your "kids" will end up paying for their whole life. If you want your kid to grow up all screwy, fine. Thats your issue. But please, just consider everything.

(Report Comment)

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