Friday, April 27, 2012

Newman: "Don't Say Gay" is the meanest bill of 2012

(In her latest update, Rep. Stacey Newman, D-St. Louis, talks about a number of bills, including "The Meanest Bill of 2012," Rep. Steve Cookson's proposal to outlaw classrom discussion of sexual orientation.)
 With only 3 weeks left to go in the 2012 legislative session, the House still hasn’t taken action on Real Issues:  job creation, fair funding for public schools and improving accountability & integrity of state government.
 What have we been doing?  Tacking the major issues…of the 19th century!   In the past 2 weeks we have passed... after hours of floor debate:
 * HB1534  - making it a state crime for federal employees to carry out federal law in MO (targeting the national health care law)
 * HB1637 – putting MO back on the gold standard (only legal in Utah at the present time)
 *HB2099 – would weaken legal protections for whistleblowers who report illegal activities by their employees
 Missouri GOP is not just focused on the War on Women but decided last week to target kids as who are most often bullied in schools.
 Rep. Steve Cookson (R- Fairdealing) filed HB2051 which would "prohibit the discussion of sexual orientation in public school instruction, material, or extracurricular activity except in scientific instruction on human reproduction".
 GOP co-sponsors include House Speaker Steve Tilley, John Diehl, Ladue, Tim Jones, Eureka, Dwight Scharnhorst, Andrew Koenig, Lyle Rowland, Charlie Denison, Lindell Shumake, Kurt Bahr, Don Wells, Eric Burlison, Dave Schatz, Doug Funderburk, Jeff Grisamore, Mark Parkinson, Paul Fitzwater, Bill Lant, Mike McGhee and Jay Houghton.
 As the Chair of the House Progressive Caucus, I quickly jumped into action.  Joined by other Democrats, we issued a letter Wednesday and a press statement to the 20 GOP male co-sponsors asking them to withdraw the bill:
 “HB2051 threatens to reduce the safety of many students throughout Missouri solely based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.  We, along with PROMO, Missouri National Educators Association, MO Federation of Teachers and the Missouri Chapter of American Academy of Pediatrics  earnestly hope that you will put compassion and student safety before political agenda.”
There are numerous serious ramifications of this proposal.  For example, the "no material and no extracurricular activity" clause would stifle the more than 80 gay-straight alliances that meet in Missouri high schools and are a tremendous resource for kids struggling with their sexual identity.  
 Bigoted legislation and leadership like this is exactly why Missouri needs strong anti-bullying legislation that protects all students. But there is NO effort to pass anything that actually aims to protect kids.
 Fact: Missouri LGBT students frequently hear homophobic, sexist, and offensive remarks regarding their gender expression.
 Fact: Most LGBT students have been victimized at school; reporting of incidents are limited and when reported, offending parties are not reprimanded.
 Fact: Most LGBT students in Missouri do not have access to support or resources.
 We need you to go to to post your statement, upload your video and sign the petition.  Read what the co-sponsors are saying and check out the state and national media on this mean bill. 
 In honor of National Pay Equity Day on April 17th, I spoke at the Missouri  State Capitol Rally recently hosted by AAUW (American Association of University Women) to promote equal pay for women in Missouri.
The rally in Jefferson City highlighted the wage gap issue as well as pointing out how women are treated in the workplace, the struggles they still face in this economy and their affected unemployment and pension benefits. 
 U. S. women on average earn 77 cents for every dollar earned by a man, which is true in Missouri as well.  It is unfair to women but it’s their families who pay the price.
Supported by the Attorney General’s office, this year I sponsored HB1862 which requires the MO Dept of Labor and Industral Relations to establish a Pay Equity Commission to study MO women’s pay in detail.  The bill was killed in the House Rules Committee, (chaired by Rep. John Diehl - Ladue) last month after passing unanimously by the Workforce Development Committee.

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