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Gay rights groups laud Nixon executive order regarding employment protections

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 19, 2010 - Gay-rights activists in the St. Louis area are applauding Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon's recent executive order that includes sexual orientation among the protected classes worthy of employment protections for those working in the executive branch of state government.

The order, unveiled at last week's NAACP national conference in Kansas City, calls for equal opportunity at all levels and phases of employment within state government

"The state of Missouri shall work to ensure that there will be no vestiges of discrimination against persons on account of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, ancestry, age, sexual orientation, veteran status, or disability; not only in employment practices but in the provision of services and the operation of facilities," the order says.

Gay rights groups have so far been unable to persuade the Legislature to add "sexual orientation'' to statewide anti-discrimination laws. As a result, they see Nixon's action as a step in the right direction.

A.J. Bockelman, the executive director for PROMO, the state's largest lobbying organization for gay rights, said today, "We are excited because this order is a major stepping stone to achieving a statewide nondiscrimination ordinance affecting the Missouri Human Rights Statute, which would assure no one in the state can lose a job, get kicked out of an apartment or be denied services based solely on the fact they identity as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender."

The order adds that Nixon's administration "shall ensure that all present and prospective employees are afforded equal opportunity at all levels and phases of employment within state government."

Among other things, the order says that Nixon will designate someone within the governor's officer as "the state Equal Employment Opportunity Officer'' who is to file a report every January with the governor and the state's commissioner of administration.

That report is to lay out the progress "in the coordination and implementation of workforce diversity programs throughout all departments of the executive branch of state government, and for advising the governor on issues regarding equal employment opportunity, workforce diversity, and efforts to administer workforce diversity action goals and timetables for implementation throughout the departments of the executive branch."

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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