St. Louis County’s latest legal maneuvers in the case of Keith Wildhaber, a police sergeant who was discriminated against based on his sex and sexual orientation, is a hypocritical effort to dodge responsibility for a discriminatory workplace that county officials allowed to fester. The county claims to abhor discrimination but refuses to accept accountability for itself and its officials.

While claiming to find discrimination based on sex and sexual orientation repugnant when talking to the press, in court St. Louis County is now Missouri’s leading proponent for legalized discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community. Missouri’s history of authorizing discrimination and sexual orientation is shameful, and St. Louis County’s effort to maintain that history rather than accept responsibility is shameful.

While it is nice that some St. Louis County leaders are calling for the passage of the Missouri Nondiscrimination Act, real leadership is action. As the county knows, the Missouri Human Rights Act already prohibits discrimination based on sex. As our state Supreme Court recognized earlier this year, discrimination based on sex may manifest itself by discriminating against a man because he is gay.

Pretending that Missouri law excuses this discrimination, suggesting that the jury was too confused to render a legitimate verdict, and continuing to claim that there were other, good reasons to discriminate against Wildhaber is part and parcel of the same package: a failure to insist that St. Louis County respect the dignity and equality of members of the LGBTQ community.

On the first day to file legislation for Missouri’s 2020 legislative session, state Representative Greg Razer (D-25) filed the Missouri Nondiscrimination Act (HB 1527) to add sexual orientation and gender identity to Missouri’s non-discrimination law. Across the political aisle, state Representative Tom Hannegan (R-65) will file similar legislation. For 22 years, Missourians have watched their politicians give them excuses rather than require that no one should lose their job or their housing because of who they are and who they love. Even those who claim to be proponents for ending discrimination will hide behind the state legislature’s inaction to shirk responsibility.

It is unfortunate that St. Louis County is now the poster child for why discrimination-based sexual orientation and gender identity must be explicitly outlawed.   

PROMO is Missouri’s statewide advocacy organization promoting equal treatment under the law for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community.

The ACLU of Missouri preserves and expands the constitutional rights and civil liberties of all Missourians as guaranteed in the Missouri and U.S. Constitutions Amendments.

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