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Fundraising for a Transgender House in Topeka

I was recently approached by the founder of Planting Peace, the non-profit organization that created the Equality House across the street from Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas.

Although the Equality House is painted as the transgender flag one week each year, many in the trans community have asked for something more permanent. Now the house next door is for sale. Sounds like the universe is talking, don’t you think?

I told Aaron about our visit last year and what it meant to my daughter. I told her about the possibility of having a Transgender House. Both of their minds started churning and they came up with the same idea: have Avery tell her story about visiting the house in the campaign to raise the funds to buy it.

The Equality House has become a beacon of hope across from a symbol of hate. It has also become a bit of an LGBTQ resource and community center as it opens its doors to visitors and has been the site of several LGBT fundraisers. With the trans community under attack from legislators around the country now more than ever, a visible representation of the community and a place for gathering together in a positive space for other fundraising events would be a welcome addition to the neighborhood.

If you would like to be part of this effort, the fundraising page can be found here:

https://www.crowdrise.com/transgenderhouse

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Anti-Trans Bathrooms Bills in Kansas

There are two new bills pending in the Kansas legislature.

Both will ban trans students in Kansas public schools from using the bathrooms that align with their gender. Trans girls will be forced to use the boys’ bathroom. Trans boys will be forced into the girls’.

As written, these bills will provide special “accommodations” through allowing trans kids to use “alternative” facilities. The backers of this bill call this “privacy,” but the actual consequences will be to “out” and isolate trans kids who are just trying to do what we all do: Go to the bathroom. Instead, they will be subject to additional isolation, harassment, bullying, and potential injury. These bills will also apply to adult college students, no matter their age, no matter their surgical status.

You can see the bills, House Bill 2737 and Senate Bill 513 and their full history on the Kansas Legislature’s website.

SB 513 has been referred to the Senate Education Committee. Since we are getting close to the end of the regular legislative session, the Senate Education Committee can no longer meet and hold hearings.  Unless the bill is pulled from committee and assigned to a committee exempt from regular deadlines (unlikely), SB513 is dead for the year.

The House version of the bill, HB2737, is still very much alive. It was referred to the House Federal and State Affairs Committee, which is one of a handful of legislative committees that can hold hearings any time the committee chair pleases. That committee is always chaired by a radical-right, anti-LGBT conservative, and this year, that chair is none other than Representative Jan Pauls, the most vocally anti-LGBT legislator in Kansas’ history.

 

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What is SJR 39 in Missouri?

SJR 39 is a bill that would add LGBT discrimination into the state constitution by way of a public vote. Missouri Senate Democrats held a record-breaking 39 hour filibuster of the anti-LGBT bill. Unfortunately, the Senate still forced a vote on the bill, and it was passed out of the Senate in a vote of 23-9.

SJR 39 attempts to add an amendment to the Missouri state constitution that would allow organizations and private businesses that provide wedding services to use religious beliefs in order to legally refuse service to same-sex couples. This includes bakeries and florists, but it could also include restaurants for your reception or dinner rehearsal or craft stores for your supplies. If passed in the House, this issue would be added immediately added to the August or November ballot, and your rights would be up for a public vote.

Currently, the Missouri Human Rights Act does not protect LGBT individuals and families. Without the Missouri Nondiscrimination Act (MONA), which we continue to work to pass, private businesses across the state already have the right to refuse services to LGBT people for any reason. However, many municipalities across Missouri do protect LGBT people. SJR 39 would make these municipalities unable to enforce their own ordinance.

This means that across the state, including in cities where nondiscrimination ordinances already exist, like Kansas City, St. Louis, Columbia, Maplewood, Ferguson, Kirksville, and eight others, private businesses could use religious beliefs as a reason to refuse services to LGBT couples getting married. These could be refused to all same-sex couples, or just some couples, all at the whim of the owner.

Current laws already exempt pastors and religious organizations from nondiscrimination laws altogether. Pastors, clergy, and churches do not have to perform marriages of any kind, including for a same-sex couple.

This danger is expounded by the fact that this bill aims to add these harmful actions to our state constitution by a public vote.

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Missouri Senate Passes Religious Freedom Bill after Record 39 Hour Filibuster

Eight Missouri Democratic Senators conducted a record-breaking filibuster in an attempt to keep SJR 39 from passing. SJR 39 is a bill that will provide for a public vote to pass a law allowing businesses to discriminate against LGBT people on the basis of religious freedom.

For 39 1/2 hours, Senators Maria Chapelle-Nadal, Kiki Curls, Jason Holsman, Joseph Keaveny, Jamilah Nasheed, Jill Schupp, Scott Sifton, and Gina Walsh each took turns speaking against the bill.

In the end, Senate Republicans were able to call the bill to a vote, with it passing by a margin of 23 to 9. It now will be debated and voted on in the House of Representatives.

 

 

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Businesses and Faith Leaders Stand Up to Proposed Missouri Bill

Businesses, faith leaders, organizations, and residents of Missouri have joined together to tell Missouri General Assembly to reject anti-LGBT legislation. The letter reads in part:

We are calling on you to reject anti-LGBT legislation, particularly SJR 39, in Missouri. Per a recent report from Visit Indy, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Indiana cost the city 60 million dollars and up to 12 conventions. The backlash from these bills passing would make Missouri a less appealing place to work, travel, and live, potentially costing the state millions of dollars.

We are committed to diversity, inclusion, and above all the Golden Rule. These dangerous bills and potential constitutional amendments only succeed in showing people Missouri is not a welcoming state. We should focus on keeping Missouri competitive, not keep people away.

The people of Missouri deserve better than this type of legislation. They deserve to be respected as taxpaying, hardworking Missourians, nothing more, nothing less. Let’s keep hate out of the Show-Me State.

Together as small businesses, faith leaders, corporations, and nonprofits, we say #NotInMyState.

 

Thank you to PROMO and the ACLU of Missouri to organize these groups.

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