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Anti-Discrimination Measures Contribute To 'Good Year' For St. Louis LGBT Community

via Flickr/BluEyedA73

It was another year of incremental progress for the LGBT community in St. Louis.

Three communities – Kirkwood, Maplewood and Ferguson– added sexual orientation to their anti-discrimination ordinances. So did St. Louis County.

The gay rights group PROMO will continue to push for more in 2013. But its executive director AJ Bockleman, says it’s okay to first be satisfied with the results of 2012.

“Our focus has been about expanding non-discrimination, so whether it was the most recent win with St. Louis County, or going all the back to what originally started this about a year a half ago, which was University City creating a  domestic partner registry, it’s been a phenomenal expansion. We now have gone from roughly; 20 percent to almost a full third of the population receiving basic protection in housing, employment and pub accommodation,” he said.

Is there any victory that is particularly sweet?

St. Louis County is the strongest piece. In 2007, the vote was 3-4 against us. Seeing it come full swing was a great victory.

The city has had a non-discrimination clause for 20 years. Why did it take so long in the county?

It’s public education. More and more people are coming out. The most powerful thing that someone who is LGBT or our allies can do is speak out against discrimination when they see it. The more you know someone who is LGBT, the more it breaks down the barriers.

Where do you hope the little pieces lead?

Any time we expand basic protections, a greater number of people realize that you can be fired in this state if you’re gay. The more we get that basic talking point across, the more people understand that there is discrimination against the LGBT community. The long march is toward statewide protections.

It was a pretty good year nationally for the LGBT community as well. What victories elsewhere do you hope to achieve here?

Marriage is on everyone’s radar. It’s not much a reality here in Missouri through the ballot or the legislature, but I’m optimistic about the Supreme Court’s decision to take up two particular gay rights cases. I’m also cautious, however, because these were not the original cases we thought the Supreme Court would pick up.

Here’s more information about the two cases the U.S. Supreme Court will hear:

  • Windsor vs. the United States of Americaa  equal protection case out of New York questioning whether the federal Defense of Marriage Act deprives same-sex couples legally married in their own states of the rights that come with marriage. 
  • Hollingsworth vs. Perry: Better known as the “Prop 8 case,” it questions whether the 14th Amendment (equal protection) prohibits the State of California from defining marriage as between a man and a woman. 

Anything that would have made 2012 better?

We’re always looking for a better year. I believe we are on the precipice of a historic expansion of LGBT equality. The president supports full marriage rights – and the Democratic Party is embracing it. I see hope and optimism. Missouri is still a challenging state, but I think we’re working in the correct way and changing hearts and minds.

Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.

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