Taking a local stand against discrimination

Jennifer Bernstein

BY JENNIFER BERNSTEIN

One thing is clear: The Missouri State legislature is not doing enough to protect the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. The misguided HB 2051 “Don’t Say Gay” bill recently introduced in the Missouri House of Representatives would not only prevent conversations about ‘gay’ issues in public school classrooms, but would silence vulnerable youth and increase incidents of bullying (the Jewish Light ran a great editorial on the bill recently).  

Thankfully, although I am disappointed by the introduction of HB 2051, I am happy to report that another bill, HB 1500 (the Missouri Nondiscrimination Act or MONA) was introduced in the Missouri legislature that would add sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes against discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations in Missouri. Unfortunately, during the 2011 legislative session, the bill was defeated by the House. 

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As an ally, I decided to educate myself about local issues facing the LGBT community. In talking with community members, I was shocked to realize that even in the city where I live, Creve Coeur, LGBT individuals are still legally discriminated against. Simply put, in Creve Coeur gay people can still be fired from their job for being gay; they can be denied the dream of owning a home; and can be removed from public spaces, such as coffee shops and libraries in Creve Coeur and most parts of St. Louis County. St. Louis City, University City, Olivette, Clayton and Richmond Heights are the only municipalities in the St. Louis metropolitan area that currently offer protection for LGBT individuals. I am truly disturbed that my neighbors are forced to live in constant fear because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Imagine walking into your workplace and being unable to speak to your colleagues about your weekend because you happen to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.  

If Creve Coeur were to pass a nondiscrimination ordinance, all individuals would be free to live in our community free from fear. Many businesses are already at the forefront, including these protections for their employees because they know that hardworking, high-performing employees should not be fired just because they are gay or transgender. We all value hard work, dedication, making a living and providing for our families. These values are common to everyone in our city, including people who identify as LGBT.  

The Jewish community has always been on the front-lines as agents for change in the United States — from women’s suffrage to the civil rights movement in the 1960s. Equality for those in the LGBT community is our generation’s civil rights issue.  I urge the readers of the Light to speak up on their behalf. It is time for Creve Coeur to take a stand and protect all of its citizens; it is time that St. Louis County end discrimination once and for all.