JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Legislation aimed at the LGBTQ community continues to be a major topic at the Missouri State Capitol.
One month into session and there are more than two dozen bills that have been filed in the General Assembly dealing with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) issues. Two Senate committees heard legislation Tuesday restricting changes to a person’s birth certificate, while the other piece of legislation would ban discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in schools.
“This bill systematically and very specifically erases LGBTQ identity presence from classrooms,” PROMO Missouri Executive Director Katy Erker-Lynch told committee members Tuesday. “Should this legislation pass, thousands of families like mine across the state seriously will consider leaving this state, and I think that’s exactly what this bill intends.”
The hot button topic across the nation is front and center in Jefferson City. Sen. Mike Moon, R-Ash Grove, testified in front of the Senate education committee Tuesday with his bill that would prohibit educators and school nurses and counselors from discussing gender identity and sexual orientation unless parents give permission first and the instructor is a licensed mental health provider.
“Discussions of gender identity and sexual orientation should be between the parents and their children,” Moon said. “Schools are not the place.”
The legislation struck a nerve with committee Democratic committee member Sen. Greg Razer.
“I don’t think I’ve ever felt more disrespected by a single piece of legislation than this one,” Razer said. “You are erasing me as a human from public schools. For the sake of the reputation of the State of Missouri, I hope it [the bill] goes no further than this hearing.”
Others who testified are concerned for how this bill would affect their job.
“This law would infringe on my work as a clinician and any of the work of licensed clinical social workers,” executive director of the National Association of the of Social Workers, Missouri Chapter Cassie Brown said. “It’s an intrusion on our work, because it states that unless there is a prior permission in place, we can’t discuss this thing with students.”
Senate Bill 134 would impact charter and public schools from grades K-12. Moon’s legislation is called the “Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act.”
“This bill is not intended to promote hatred of a certain group,” Moon said.
Andy Schuerman has been a school counselor at the Park Hill School District outside of Kansas City for 15 years. He said school counselors are ethically and morally bound to involve parents in their children’s lives.
“Because of who they are and how they are born, it is something they are scared to death to share with their parents,” Schuerman said.
Two floors down in the Capitol, Sen. Mike Cierpiot, R-Lee’s Summit, bill was being heard in front of the Senate Emerging Issues Committee.
“Once a birth certificate has been issued, the sex can’t be changed without a medically verifiable disorder of sex development or intersex,” Cierpiot said. “A birth certificate is a historic document that states facts on the day you were born, the date, the place, the sex, the facts and nothing more.”
Senate Bill 14 would ban Missourians from changing the sex on their birth certificate unless they have surgery.
“This bill would prevent any trans individual from updating their gender marker, regardless of their age or medical history,” director of law and policy for the Trevor Project Casey Pick said. “This law would mean a document that follows them their entire life would never actually reflect who they are. It would be a constant reminder that somebody else, the government, thinks they know more about who they are than they do.”
The Trevor Project is a non-profit organization that is focused on suicide prevention among the LGBTQ youth community. Pick said last year, the organization helped more than 4,300 youth in the state of Missouri alone.
Those in opposition told the committee the legislation could lead to people leaving the state.
“I would like to sincerely thank the committee for one thing, for a reminder that I’m proud to be born in Kansas, to say I came from the free state, which for now, does not restrict the right to amend my birth certificate,” Amber Edmunds, a trans woman from Kansas City, told the committee. “Some members of the Senate see trans people asserting their rights in the system and say, ‘I don’t like that,’ so those lawmakers choose to use it to halt our own self-determination.”
Both of the bills still needed to be voted on by committees. Last week, a bill banning transgender women from competing on female sports teams passed out of committee and is now waiting to be debated by the Senate. The legislation is sponsored by Sen. Holly Thompson Rehder, R-Sikeston. Senate Bill 39 says it would prohibit a school district or charter school from allowing a student athlete to compete on a team that is designed for the biological sex opposite to the student’s biological sex, as stated on the child’s official birth certificate.
The Missouri High School Activities Association already has a policy in place for transgender athletes. Only allowing transgender girls to play on female sports teams after hormone treatment for a least one year.
Earlier this year, Senate President Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, told reporters that legislation that would ban transgender girls from playing on female sports teams has a good chance of passing the Republican-led legislature this session.