My name is Jennifer Bernstein and I am a Creve Coeur resident. I am a mom of a three-year-old son, the wife of a colon cancer survivor and I work in child abuse prevention. I am also a proud ally of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.
Recently, the misguided HB2051 ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill was introduced into the Missouri House of Representatives. This bill not only would prevent conversations about ‘gay’ issues in public school classrooms, but would essentially silence vulnerable youth and help increase incidents of bullying. It also shed light on what some of our elected officials in Missouri feel towards the LGBT community. Many of the co-sponsors on that list came from rural Missouri, but to my surprise and shock some of them came from districts within St. Louis County. As I continue my journey around understanding equality issues, one thing remains clear: neither the Federal government nor the State legislature is doing anything to protect this community. Although HB 2051 deals strictly with the conversations dealing in public schools around equality issues, there is another bill, HB 1500 (the Missouri Nondiscrimination Act) that would add sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes against discrimination in the State of Missouri in employment, housing and public accommodations.
The Missouri Nondiscrimination Act, or MONA, has been introduced repeatedly for several years in the Missouri Legislature. During the 2011 legislative session, it was finally voted on by the House and defeated. It is sad to even mention that even this year another similar bill was introduced and passed by the House that would give protections to gun-owners.
As an ally, I decided to educate myself about local issues that face 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, 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. Something that is truly disturbing is the constant fear that people live in because of their sexual orientation and gender identity. Imagine, walking into your workplace and being unable to speak to your fellow colleagues about your weekend or even your life, because you happen to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. If a local nondiscrimination ordinance were to pass this would not create any ‘special’ protections, but would add the LGBT community as a protected class against discrimination in the employment, housing and public accommodations. St. Louis City, University City, Olivette, Clayton and Richmond Heights are the only municipalities that currently offer these protections in the region.
In my mind and as a resident, Creve Coeur has always been a city that has not only been accepting and open, but also has been pro-business. If Creve Coeur were to pass these protections it would not only create and maintain a vibrant workforce within our city, but it would allow all individuals the ability to feel secure that their city protects them. Businesses are at the forefront of including these protections 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, including people who identify as LGBT. 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.