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PROMO, ACLU team up for town hall meetings on gay rights

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 23, 2013 - PROMO, the St. Louis-based statewide gay rights organization, says it is joining with the regional ACLU to develop a strategy for moving forward in Missouri, despite the state’s constitutional ban against gay marriage.

PROMO executive director A.J. Bockelman has announced that, beginning in September, the two groups are “setting up a series of town hall meetings to share information, give an overview of what federal benefits currently apply to legally married couples, gather stories, and develop strategies for next steps toward marriage in Missouri.”

The activity is in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's decisions that tossed out the federal Defense of Marriage Act and California’s gay-marriage ban known as Proposition 8. Both decisions, said Bockelman, “are tremendous victories and a signal that it is time to move forward for LGBT equality in Missouri. Our organizations are coming together to chart a path to full equality for LGBT Missourians, which will include protections against discrimination, as well as the freedom to marry.”

PROMO has previously acknowledged that Missouri’s constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage, passed in 2004, presents a daunting hurdle. But even so, the group has had increasing success in winning approval of ordinances – passed in more than a dozen communities – that ban discrimination in jobs, public accommodations and housing based on sexual orientation.

With bipartisan support, the Missouri Senate passed a similar anti-discrimination proposal last session dealing with employment. It died in the state House, but the number of backers in both parties has garnered notice.

Said Bockelman: “Missouri families deserve to win equality as soon as possible, but as tempting as they may be, quick fixes are not the answer. The historic victories that our movement has achieved across the country are the result of careful planning, long-term vision, and working together as a united community to create a shared plan.”

The specific dates for the planned town hall meetings have yet to be set, but Bockelman says the first will be held in Columbia, Kansas City and St. Louis.

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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