Missouri has a long way to go to achieve equality for LGBT residents, according to a national advocacy organization.
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) issued a report today showing Missouri is among 29 states lacking basic equality standards. The organization gives Missouri particularly low marks in two areas:
- Missouri residents can be fired from their jobs or denied housing because of sexual orientation or gender identity.
- Missouri is one of 14 states that does not allow same-sex marriage.
Recent court decisions have made inroads into same-sex marriage laws. Missouri must now recognize legal marriages that took place in other states or countries. And St. Louis, St. Louis County and Jackson County can now issue marriage licenses.
Stephanie Perkins, deputy director of PROMO, the Missouri LGBT advocacy organization, says equality is important not only to LGBT citizens but to their friends and families -- and all Missourians.
“So that we are creating a space that’s really welcome and safe for everybody,” Perkins said.
Illinois Fares Better; Missouri Has A Strong Point
The HRC puts states in four categories. The highest ranking is called “Working Toward Innovative Equality” and includes California, Oregon and Washington, D.C. “Solidifying Equality,” which includes Illinois, is the second-best ranking.
The HRC notes that Illinois allows same-sex marriage, joint and second-parent adoption, and protects residents from discrimination regarding sexual orientation and gender identity.
The third category is “Building Equality.” The fourth and last is “High Priority to Achieve Basic Equality,” under which Missouri, Alabama and Utah are among the states ranked as the most deficient in LGBT equality.
But the situation in Missouri may not be as dismal as the HRC index indicates. The state scores well in one category not included in the HRC index, according to Perkins. Perkins said that in 2014, Missouri ranked No. 6 in the nation and No. 1 in the Midwest for its “welcoming and safe LGBT health-care providers.”
One component of “welcoming and safe” is health-care workers understanding that not everyone identifies as heterosexual. One way to do that is not to assume that everyone is heterosexual. For example, offices can offer more choices on intake forms such as including “partner” as well as spouse.
“It’s about treating them with the same equality and compassion as you would treat any other patient, client or family,” Perkins said.
Follow Nancy Fowler on Twitter: @NancyFowlerSTL