Missouri lawmakers are pushing ahead with numerous bills relating to LGBTQ+ rights, with proposed legislation banning transition therapy for minors, the teaching of LGBTQ+ topics in school and permitting adoption agencies to reject potential parents for religious reasons.
HB 2051, which has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee, makes it illegal to assist, coerce or provide surgical or hormonal treatment to minors for the purposes of gender reassignment.
“These are decisions best left to the individuals dealing with them. Parents, transgender youth, doctors and therapists should all be working together to make the best decision,” G.S.A sponser Matthew Smith said.
HB 1721, SB 842 and HB 2210 also criminalize hormonal or surgical treatment for minors. Under HB 2051, those who provide or encourage treatment for minors would be charged with a felony carrying a minimum of one year imprisonment.
“Individuals under 18 are still developing mentally and physically and may not be mature enough to make this type of life altering decision. This continued maturation process is why several life affecting/altering decisions are not legal for those 18,” industrial technology teacher Richard Brown said.
Similar legislation has been proposed in at least six other state legislatures this legislative session. South Dakota’s HB 1057 has already been passed out of committee, and will go to the House for perfection. One of the four Florida bills would make providing both surgical or hormonal treatment to minors a second degree felony, carrying a penalty of up to 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Colorado, Illinois, Oklahoma and South Carolina also have such bills.
“They should be fully developed … before they make any life altering decisions that cannot be undone,” freshman Jacobi Tanner said.
Legislators have also proposed bills to prevent transgender youth participating in interscholastic activities relating to their assigned gender. HJR 82, which has been referred to the House Committee on General Laws, and SJR 50 would propose an amendment to Article IX of the Missouri Constitution to enact such a ban.
Education has also become an important topic this session, with the New Jersey legislature mandating schools include LGBTQ+ topics in their curriculum, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. There has been pushback against this, with a petition to remove LGBTQ+ topics from the curriculum having over 7,000 signatures.
In Missouri, HB 1565 would require schools to allow parents to opt their children out of any lesson regarding human sexuality or sexually transmitted diseases. HB 2153 would allow school districts to include LGBTQ+ topics in their curriculum, though does not mandate these topics be included, leaving the decision to local school boards.
“LGBTQ+ youth make up the largest percentages of youth and adolescent suicide rates as well as a disproportionate number of murders and hate crimes, especially transgender females of color. This makes it so very important that we educate not only the LGBTQ+ students but also the cis gender wider population,” special education teacher Samantha Timpe said.
HB 2200 would go even further than HB 1565 by mandating that parents must opt their child into any lessons regarding human sexuality or sexual transmitted diseases in lieu of the option to opt out proposed in HB 1565. HB 2200 makes violating the opt-in rule a class C misdemeanor, which would carry a penalty of up to 15 days imprisonment and a maximum fine of $750.
“[Students] should be educated about the mental health issues and needs of LGBTQ youth, about body and image dysmorphia and all the health safety issues that affect the LGBTQ+ community,” Timpe said.
The Missouri Nondiscrimination Act, MONA, has also been proposed again. The two bills, HB 1527 and HB 1763, would ban discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, and gender identity in employment. MONA has been proposed 21 times since 1998, and has been passed in either the House of Representatives or the Senate numerous times, but has never been enacted.
This is a topic also being raised in the Supreme Court, where two cases, Express Altitude, Inc. v. Zarda and R.G. & G.R. Funeral Homes, Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, are being argued regarding whether Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964’s prohibition on discrimination based on sex encompasses sexual orientation, and gender identity. The District of Columbia and 22 states currently have nondiscrimination provisions for sexual orientation and gender identity. A ruling is expected in May or June on these cases.
“Every person [should have] an equal opportunity to work at any given place. Gender and sexual orientation should not make or break someone’s job opportunities,” senior Chloe Creasy said.
On the issue of adoption, HB 2043 would allow adoption agencies to reject potential parents for religious reasons. A similar law has been enacted in Tennessee, and was the first action taken by Tennessee’s state legislature this session. Currently, 11 states allow for state funded adoption agencies to reject potential parents on religious grounds, while nine states expressly prohibit discrimination in adoption based on sexual orientation.
“It makes me sad to see Missouri lagging behind when it comes to LGBTQ+ topics,” Smith said.